While the federal constitution does not bar a non-Malay Malaysian becoming prime minister, consideration should also be given to the current protocol, former DAP vice-president Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim says.
"Of course, going by the constitution, he (DAP chairperson Karpal Singh) is absolutely right. But, and here is a big ‘but': we have also to go according to convention and practice.
"We just cannot ignore this," Aziz said, when asked to comment on the issue at a press conference at his house today.
While the administrative duties of a prime minister can be done by anyone, some roles in the prime minister's capacity, as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's first minister, needs to be fulfilled by a Muslim.
"For example... when the Agong goes to pray, he would expect his prime minister to be in that party. If you are not a Muslim, you'd have to stay out," Aziz added.
However, he does not discount the possibility of a non-Muslim prime minister in Malaysia, but not in his lifetime.
And, Aziz said, there should be no problem with a non-Malay Muslim becoming prime minister, or a non-Muslim becoming deputy prime minister.
"But the opposition has got to get its act together. As it is now, they don't even know who is going to be in what (position)," said the Penang senator, whose tenure ends on Wednesday.
Last Thursday, Karpal reportedly told Umno-owned daily Utusan Malaysia that he will push for a non-Malay prime minister for the rest of his life, but DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang slammed the statement as a misquote .
At the press conference, Aziz also reiterated that he left DAP because he was falsely accused by the party's secretary-general Lim Guan Eng that he was opposed to Bersih, whereas in actuality he was only opposed to its move to hold the Bersih 3.0 rally in contravention to the law.
'Irresponsible to talk about Malaysian Spring'
In addition, he warned against unnamed quarters from saying that the rally for electoral reform would lead to a “Malaysian Spring,” like the Arab Spring uprisings last year that toppled several government in the Middle East and North Africa.
“To talk that ‘this could lead to a Malaysian Spring’ is, to me, totally irresponsible. That means you are prepared to see bloodshed as happened in Egypt.
“Is that what you want for our country? This is where I draw the line,” Aziz said, adding that Malaysia is a unique country with its own set of problems, and should not be compared to those countries that have had people’s uprisings.
Aziz, who is also a founder of Transparency International Malaysia, also elaborated on his rejection of the offer to become a senior fellow of the Penang state think-tank Penang Institute.
He said in addition to the RM50,000 annual stipend that he sees as an “inducement to stay”, he noted that the institute’s chief executive, Zairil Khir Johari, was only 27 years old.
“It was an act of enormous insensitivity and I wondered then what manner of a man could be so biadap (insolent)? I am 51 years older than (Zairil) to whom I was presumably expected to report. Need I say more?”