(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The press have been asking for my reactions to the statement by PAS President, Datuk Fadzil Mohd Noor to reporters at the PAS Muktamar yesterday, which was given the front-page headline by Utusan Malaysia today, "Bukan Anwar, Kit Siang - Fadzil Noor bayangkan pemimpin Pas bakal PM jika pembangkang berkuasa". The headings of other newspapers were: "Kit Siang tidak boleh jadi PM: Fadzil" (Berita Harian); "Fadzil: Lim cannot become PM" (Star) and "Kit Siang cannot become PM: PAS" (Sun).
In the first place, let me state that the idea of being Prime Minister of Malaysia had never entered my mind in my 33 years of political work.
This does not mean that a Malaysian of Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Iban origin is constitutionally barred from holding the office of Prime Minister.
The Malaysian Constitution does not provide that the Prime Minister must be a Malay or a Muslim, as all that is required under Article 43 of the Constitution is that he should be a Malaysian citizen and a member of the House of Representatives who in the judgment of the Yang di Pertuan Agong "is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House". This means that a Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Iban can become Prime Minister if he commands the confidence of the majority of the elected Members of Parliament.
However, the political realities are such that I do not expect to see a Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Iban to become Prime Minister during my lifetime.
It must be stressed however that it is only when a Malaysian Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Iban can become Prime Minister that we can truly say that a Bangsa Malaysia has been born.
A firm start must be made however for Malaysians to regard other Malaysians as fellow-citizens first and last, regardless of race or religion, and this is why Lim Guan Eng’s example and sacrifice is so important to the creation of a Bangsa Malaysia - as he remains the first political leader in the 42-year Malaysian nation-building who is prepared to defend the honour, women’s rights and human rights of a Malaysian of another race and religion even if he has to pay a high political price and personal cost.
The question of who would be the Prime Minister if the Barisan Nasional is toppled in the next general election had not been discussed in the various meetings held by opposition party leaders in the past months.
The Opposition parties have achieved unprecedented co-operation for the first time in Malaysian political history, with DAP, PAS, KeADILan and Parti Rakyat leaders appearing on the same platform at ceramahs and forums, as well as meeting to discuss forms of further co-operation in the coming general election.
The question of who from the Opposition will become Prime Minister is academic until the unprecedented Opposition co-operation could be taken one step further as in the creation of an united Opposition front, so that there would only be a "one-to-one" contest against the Barisan Nasional in the next general election - which will in turn depend on whether agreement could be reached on having a common election manifesto, a common objective for the next election (whether to deny Barisan Nasional its uninterrupted traditional two-thirds parliamentary majority or to topple it from power) and the allocation of parliamentary and state assembly seats.
Right from the beginning, the DAP has committed itself to opposition co-operation to the extent of ensuring a "one-to-one" contest against the Barisan Nasional, with a common election manifesto on the issues of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
However, DAP believes that a realistic objective for the Opposition in the next general election is to break the mould of Barisan Nasional political hegemony created by its never losing two-thirds majority in the past four decades through nine general elections, to serve as a warning that Barisan Nasional can lose power in the subsequent general election whether in 2,004 or 2,005 if it refuses to restore and institute justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
I believe that this two-step programme covering two elections for a change of power is more achievable that a one fell swoop in the next general election to unseat the Barisan Nasional government.