Chua: Changing constitution is no small matter
PETALING JAYA: Amending the constitution is a sensitive issue and it must not be treated like a small matter, said a speaker at The Star-ACMS Public Forum: New Politics in Post Election Malaysia.
Touching on the situation in Perak where the state constitution requires the Mentri Besar to be a Malay and Muslim, former Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said changing the constitution that infringed on the rights of the Sultan was not a small matter.
“I must say that this is a very sensitive question. Please don’t treat changing the constitution like a joke.
“It is a big thing to a lot of people,” he said in replying to a question by a participant at the forum at Menara Star here yesterday.
He said the people must understand how the country achieved its independence and the spirit behind the constitution.
“During independence, in order to placate the feelings of the Sultan, Muslims and Malay community, it was enshrined in the state constitution that a Mentri Besar must be a Muslim. The Sultan has the power to give exemption, but none of the Sultans has exercised it.”
Dr Chua said he doubted that anybody would have the courage to change the state constitution and challenged the current Perak Government to convince the Sultan on the need to change it.
The public forum is the latest in a series organised by The Star and the Asian Centre for Media Studies.
Yesterday’s forum, moderated by The Star Group Chief Editor Datuk Wong Chun Wai, was to analyse the new political landscape in the country post-election.
Besides Dr Chua, the other speakers were Pulai MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed from Umno, newly elected DAP MPs Tony Pua and Charles Santiago, and Gerakan’s secretary-general Datuk Seri Chia Kwang Chye.
Pua concurred that some of the proposed constitutional changes demanded by the opposition were very sensitive but they could be worked out for the interests of the people.
“They are very sensitive. They touch on race and religion. I think everyone is nervy about this issue but that doesn’t mean that we can’t work towards something that applies to all Malaysians.”
He pointed out that the Barisan Nasional Government had amended the Federal Constitution many times over the last 50 years but the changes were to protect the rights of the Sultan, uphold Islam and interests of the ruling coalition to consolidate its position.
Santiago, however, pointed out that former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had, in the 1980s, successfully amended the constitution limiting the powers of the Sultans.
“Nobody could have realised the outcome of the March 8 polls. There’s always a new beginning, shared hopes and collective aspiration,” he said.
Nur Jazlan said any amendment to the constitution would require the agreement of parties concerned including the Sultan.
“Our country is the product of history. If you want to change the constitution you've got to deal with the conflicting interests that created the constitution.
“It is not easy for us as the people just demand things. Under the law, you must get the agreement of parties involved including the Sultan.”
Nur Jazlan also called for an institution to control the conflicting interests compared to when the country gained independence 50 years ago.
“The problem is the interest groups are not unified and are pulling Malaysians in different directions. This is the biggest threat to the legacy left to us by our founding fathers,” he said.
To those people who was elected, get to work first and forget about changing the constitution for the time being. What is more important is, how you deliver your promises before the election. For now my advice for the DAP (especially) is, stop harping on the issue of MB or deputy MB.
Trust is more important now. Get the trust of the Malays first! Maybe then the Malays will gladly let you be a MB.
Amending State/ Federal constitution just to let you people hold a position is not accepted! Stop saying about racial equality, if DAP can't even field a Malay candidate in the general election!
We have got to accept the fact that in Malaysian Politics that race do have a great influence and also even in the rest of the world. Look at US for instance, after 300 years only then a black is accepted as a presidential candidate.
So let us be realistic! Start working and deliver your promises...