Salleh Keruak: PM will always be from Umno
(MMO) – Under Barisan Nasional (BN) rule, the Malaysian prime minister will always be someone from Umno as it has the most seats in Parliament, party treasurer Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak said.
The communications and multimedia minister, who is from Sabah, said it would be natural for the prime minister to be selected from the Malay nationalist party as per the Westminster parliamentary system, since Umno is the biggest party and has the most seats in the BN coalition.
“As far as BN is concerned,our position is clear — leader of the party which commands the majority of seats will be the prime minister.
“President of Umno who is chairman of BN will be the prime minister. This is how democracy works,” Salleh told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
He added that even a politician from DAP stood a chance to become PM if he or she commanded the most support in the Dewan Rakyat.
“Technically if the opposition wins 112 seats in Parliament and they want a non-Malay DAP candidate for Prime Minister, that is legal,” Salleh sarcastically said.
The Sabahan lawmaker was asked to comment if Malaysia would amend its Constitution to allow a non-Malay prime minister in the future, after Singapore announced that it will amend its constitution to allow future presidents to be elected from ethnic minorities. Singapore’s president, however, does not hold executive powers.
To this, Salleh said nowhere in the Federal Constitution is it specified that a non-Malay cannot hold the top post, but pointed out that the Singaporean president’s position is very much different from the Malaysian prime minister’s.
“The Singapore president is a ceremonial position with no executive powers and the [Malaysian] Constitution does not state the race, religion or gender.
“Constitutionally speaking, the MP who commands the majority confidence of Parliament becomes the prime minister. It does not state anything more than that and has always been so since Merdeka,” he explained.
BN component party MCA meanwhile remained optimistic that someday a non-Malay could be instated as prime minister, but conceded that the Malaysian mindset was not ready for such a change.
The Chinese party’s youth wing chief Senator Chong Sin Woon said if a non-Malay gets majority support from the MPs, he or she might stand a chance to be prime minister despite their race.
“The Constitution only said any MP who received the majority support in the House of Representatives would be the PM, so yes any MP, regardless of race and religion, can be PM of Malaysia,” the deputy education minister II told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
MCA religious harmony bureau chairman Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker said Malaysians were still very much divided by racial ideologies and that would not allow for a non-Malay to hold the nation’s top government position.
“That’s a hypothetical question. Why not? If there comes a day when it is politically correct to do so?
“The current political mindset and racial demographic shows that the political willingness to accept a non-Malay leader at the helm is not there yet,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
Ti added that the racial divide is still a big hurdle for Malaysians to overcome and claimed it is present in various organisations, including national sporting associations and local universities.
“Taking my point further are all the sports organisation where the Malays are dominant and do not show the openness of accepting a non-Malay at the helm.
“Sports should be multiracial by nature, but why is it that most organisations are not helmed by non-Malays except for ping-pong and basketball?” he questioned, adding that such a racial split even occurred in universities during the undergraduate student elections.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced Sunday night that the republic will soon amend its constitution to ensure its future presidents can be elected from among the ethnic minorities “from time to time”. The president is the head of state in Singapore and has authority over two major matters: reserves and appointments.
Malaysia’s six prime ministers have all been chosen from Umno despite the party winning general elections as part of the BN bloc with other component parties like MCA, MIC, Gerakan, as well as other parties from Sabah and Sarawak.
BN mainly comprises race-based parties, hence by default, it contests in constituencies based on racial demographics, making Umno the biggest party as it typically contests the most number of seats in the predominantly Malay country.