I was first made conscious of this question in university in 1986. There was a talk and someone asked that question. The ensuing debate continued. At that point of time I thought that the question is rather academic and perhaps unnecessary.
Why did you think it was not necessary?
Well, in simple terms, anyone can be a leader as long as he can get enough supporters. So whether a Malay or a non-Malay can be PM is secondary to the question, 'Who has the biggest support?'
What does the constitution say about it?
The constitution does not say that the Prime Minister must be Malay. What is obvious is that our king must be Malay. The constitution suggests that the king will choose the leader who can command the support of the majority of parliamentarians. So if one day, the king considers someone to have the best possibility to lead the majority of parliamentarians, whether he or she is
Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Eurasian, or from any other background, he will choose that person to become Prime Minister.
Why do you think this question about a non-Malay Prime Minister keeps coming
I see this as the typical Malaysian mental trap. We have a tendency to see everything too much through the racial viewpoint. Many intelligent Malaysians genuinely think that they're talking about democracy by suggesting a non-Malay PM or DPM, these kinds of things. But I think it is one of the mental sicknesses that we have, of the need to look at things from a racial perspective. To some, mostly perhaps some politicians, they may not be so clear about how leadership works. Or maybe they're deliberately using this topic to strike popularity.
Is it not democratic to ask such a question?
If we are seriously thinking about democracy and we look at it by representation, and for example we suggest the Deputy Prime Minister should be represented by someone from a race which makes up 30% of the population, why not think outside of race? We can suggest a female Deputy Prime Minister, as women are 50% of the population. Another viewpoint is instead of looking at gender, we can look at age - we have a very large population of young people. Should we also argue that we should have a Deputy Prime Minister from Gen Y? There are many ways to look at it, but we still keep falling into the race trap. So, you must ask why harp on race? Are they
simply playing politics?
So what do you suggest?
I suggest that we stop looking at race in this matter - it is a waste of time, it is an academic question. Whoever becomes the PM, DPM or ministers, whoever becomes a manager, managing director, a doctor, a lawyer - what is important is not racial representation. Even if we have ten Malays running the country, or ten Chinese or ten Indians or ten Ibans, what is important is that we have leaders who will think for everyone. Someone who thinks for all Malaysians, Malaysian first- not race.
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