DAP calls for an immediate halt to the politics of racialism and declares that  the question of a  DAP Prime Minister after the general election does not arise as  the real issue at the next polls is whether Barisan Nasional’s two-thirds majority could be denied

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Monday): The entire Barisan Nasional leadership has jumped on the statement by Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat on Sunday that PAS is prepared to accept a non-Muslim from the DAP as the Prime Minister provided the candidate agrees to the conditions set by the Barisan Alternative.

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:

I do not want to accuse Mahathir of election ploys in making such statements - which he had never  said before in his 18 years as Prime Minister -  to garner Chinese votes in the next general election.  I will accept them at their face value as instances of new mindsets and new thinking necessary in all our political leaders, irrespective of party, to usher Malaysia into the new millennium.

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:

Utusan Malaysia yesterday reported on Dr. Chua’s speech, where the MCA Central Committee member said "kuasa Melayu akan terhapus jika UMNO tidak diberi mandat secukupnya oleh orang Melayu dalam setiap pilihan raya umum".

He said:

I call for  an immediate and total halt to the politics of racialism. I  urge Mahathir and the UMNO leadership to stop all tactics to arouse communal fears and  set one race against another, which is the  height of irresponsibility in a multi-racial Malaysia.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong