Nik Aziz was quoted as saying that Malaysia’s next Prime Minister need not be a Muslim if the front formed the next Government after the general election.
The question of a DAP Prime Minister after the general election does not arise as the real issue in the nation’s tenth general election is whether the Barisan Nasional’s political hegemony could be broken by the denial and ending of its uninterrupted two-thirds parliamentary majority.
What Nik Aziz said is in line with Article 43 of the Malaysian Constitution which provides that the only condition for the appointment of the Prime Minister is his command of the confidence of the majority of the Members of Parliament and as had been repeatedly pointed out by many leaders, including the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the office is open to every Malaysian, regardless of race or religion.
However, the realities of politics and demographics in Malaysia are such that I do not see any non-Malay Prime Minister in Malaysia in the forseeable future during my lifetime. I definitely do not see myself as ever becoming the Prime Minister of Malaysia!
This is why in the discussions of DAP, PAS, KeADILan and PRM leaders resulting in the policy announcement naming Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the Prime Minister-designate of the Barisan Alternative, the question of a non-Malay Prime Minister was never broached as everybody recognises that constitutional provision is one thing while practical politics is another.
Nik Aziz is the first top PAS leader to state publicly his acceptance of the constitutional provision with regard to the Prime Minister, as there had been questions as to whether PAS accepts Article 43 of the Constitution that there is no ethnic or religious bar to the office of Prime Minister.
The Barisan Alternative Joint Manifesto "Towards A Just Malaysia" made public on Oct. 24, 1999 committed DAP, PAS KeADILan and PRM to respect the fundamental principles of the Constitution.
The position taken by Nik Aziz accepting the constitutional principle that any Malaysian, regardless of race or religion, can become the Prime Minister is in line with the Barisan Alternative Joint Manifesto and should have been welcomed by all - not only by the DAP but also by UMNO, MCA, Gerakan and the other Barisan Nasional parties for it demonstrates that PAS leaders are capable of new thinking to meet the challenges of Malaysian nation-building in the new millennium which involves the full participation of all Malaysians, regardless of their race, language, culture or religion.
Unfortunately, the Barisan Nasional leaders, starting with the Prime Minister, have decided to politicise and distort Nik Aziz’s statement, with some mischievously and maliciously distorting it to launch a very irresponsible and dangerous political offensive to arouse communal fears among the Malays.
At least the Prime Minister has not resorted to such irresponsible and dangerous race-baiting. He said it was PAS’ ploy to garner support from the Chinese and that it was only for the DAP's "listening pleasure".
I want to make two points on Mahathir’s comment.
Firstly, in a fast-changing global environment, Malaysian leaders must prove that they are capable of continuous growth and new thinking to ensure that Malaysia can compete against the rest of the world in the international market-place, particularly in exploiting to the full the potential, talents and wealth of the Malaysian people with its diversity of races, languages, cultures and religions.
All political leaders, irrespective of party, whether in government
or opposition, must have new mind-sets to meet the challenges of the new
millennium. It is in this context that I welcome some of the statements
which had been made by the Prime Minister in the past few days, viz:
Mahathir and the other Barisan Nasional leaders should similarly be prepared to accept the new thinking and mindsets of PAS leaders.
Secondly, DAP does not derive any "listening pleasure" from Nik Aziz’s statement. While welcoming Nik Aziz’s acceptance of the constitutional principle on the office of the Prime Minister, DAP leaders are very concerned and even worried that his statement is being distorted to arouse communal fears and tensions among the Malays - when for the past year, the opposition parties in Barisan Alternative had successfully presented a non-racial programme for change based on the restoration of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
UMNO Ministers and leaders can question the sincerity of Nik Aziz, (as Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi has done), a "political gimmick" (Datuk Anuar Musa), "inconsistency" (Tan Sri Khalil Yaakob), "power-crazy promising all sorts of things that cannot be fulfilled" (Datuk Seri Samy Vellu), "an attempt to fish for non-Muslim votes" (Datuk Lim Ah Lek), but they have no right to try to undermine inter-racial harmony by creating the scare that it is a threat to the rights of the Malays and Islam.
UMNO Youth Acting chief, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein, for instance, warned Nik Aziz that UMNO Youth would "bangkit menentang sesiapa sahaja mencabar hak ketuanan Melayu, bahasa dan agama Islam".
What is even more shocking is that there are MCA leaders who are using the same arguments as the most extreme UMNO leaders to scare the Malays into supporting UMNO.
This is why today’s Utusan Malaysia in its front-page headline "Melayu harus insaf - Peringatan bangsa lain jika ketuanan kita hancurkan: Rais" quoted MCA Central Working Committee member, Dr. Chua Soi Lek as giving such a warning and former UMNO leader, Datuk Rais Yatim’s reaction.
The Utusan Malaysia front-page story said:
"Peguam dan aktivis UMNO, Datuk Rais Yatim berkata, masanya sudah tiba bagi orang Melayu berfikir dengan serius mengenai peringatan itu dan mengambil langkah sewajarnya.
"Kata beliau, kenyataan yang dibuat oleh Ahli Majlis Tertinggi MCA, Dr. Chua Soi Lek semalam itu tidak sepatutnya dipandang remeh kerana sekiranya ia berlaku, struktur politik di negara ini sudah pasti akan berubah secara serta- merta.
''’Ia adalah amaran awal yang wajib diambil peringatan dalam hati sanubari seluruh bangsa Melayu di negara ini,' katanya yang juga pakar dalam bidang perlembagaan negara ketika dihubungi di sini hari ini.
"Kebimbangan yang sama turut disuarakan oleh Pensyarah Jabatan Sejarah Universiti Malaya, Profesor Dr. Ramlah Adam yang menyifatkan peringatan yang disuarakan oleh Dr. Chua itu sebagai ‘satu tamparan yang menusuk ke kalbu'.
"Penganalisis sejarah itu berharap pandangan tersebut dihalusi dan direnungi oleh orang Melayu kerana ia akan menentukan nasib masa depan mereka sendiri.
"Dr. Chua semalam memperingatkan orang Melayu bahawa bangsa itu akan hilang ketuanan di Malaysia jika mereka 'membunuh' UMNO pada pilihan raya umum akan datang.
"Beliau menegaskan, orang Melayu perlu sedar terhadap perkara tersebut jika mahukan bangsanya terus menjadi teras kepada parti pemerintah di negara ini.
"’Saya orang Cina. Apa yang saya cakapkan ini adalah ikhlas. Saya cakap ini bukan ada apa-apa muslihat. Terpulanglah kepada orang Melayu sendiri menilai apa yang saya katakan,' katanya ketika berucap pada perjumpaan dengan para pemimpin UMNO Kampung Koris, Tanjung Laboh, Kelicap, Kampung Pasir Lebar Barat dan Taman Banang Jaya, di Kampung Koris, di Batu Pahat kelmarin."
''Kalau orang Melayu mahu terus menjadi tulang belakang kepada parti yang mentadbir Malaysia, jangan sekali-kali menghancurkan UMNO.
''Percayalah kalau orang Melayu sendiri menghancurkan UMNO, kuasa Melayu akan musnah di Malaysia. Sekarang UMNO mewakili orang Melayu menjadi parti tonggak dalam Barisan Nasional (BN).
''Kehancuran UMNO bermakna kehancuran kuasa Melayu. Fikirlah dan buatlah keputusan terbaik untuk orang Melayu.''