Sunday 8 May 2011

Mandatory Muslim PM law against Federal Constitution, says expert

May 08, 2011
Malaysian Insider
KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 — The Federal Constitution does not require a Muslim prime minister to helm the government, and any such provision would be against Malaysia’s laws of equality, a law expert asserted today.

“To insert a provision requiring the PM be Muslim would run counter to the provision of equality enshrined under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution,” said Prof Abdul Aziz Bari.

Aziz was responding to a statement made yesterday by lawyer Datuk Zainal Rejal who had charged that the prime minister must be a Muslim, even though there are no legal provisions as to the race or ethnicity of the PM in the Constitution.

Zainal, who was a speaker at a forum organised by The Muslim Organisations in Defence of Islam (Pembela), said a non-Muslim prime minister would not be able to advise the King on Islamic matters.

“The PM must be a Muslim. Or else he cannot advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Islamic matters ... how can you have a non-Muslim advise the Agong on Islamic matters?”  Zainal had said.

In response, Aziz said that the only way the current provision could be amended was through a two-thirds majority vote in Parliament.

The constitutional expert explained that there was no need for the prime minister to be a Muslim because Islam was a matter of the state and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is not the head of Islam for the entire federation.

“One must not forget that in the Malay states the corresponding position has been stated clearly: that MB — but not chief minister — must be a Malay and a Muslim. Similarly the Constitution has made it clear that the state secretary must be a Malay and a Muslim.”

The Federal Constitution does not expressly specify race or religious requirements for the position of prime minister. Article 43(2)(a) of the constitution states only that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall appoint as PM a member of parliament who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat.

“Islam has been protected by the law so there is no need to fear that Islam might be threatened just because the PM might be a non-Muslim,” Aziz told The Malaysian Insider.

He stressed the Constitution was also clear that state rulers, as heads of Islam, need not listen to the advice of the government, as they can protect the religion on their own, given there were exceptions to the rule.

“Let us not assert something that is not expressly stated in the Constitution unless it is necessitated by the spirit of the Constitution or that it is something that is ancillary to it.

“The Constitution must not be read and understood in a pedantic manner,” said Aziz.

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