Not unconstitutional to appoint non-Muslims in top government posts, says deputy minister

Ida Nadirah Ibrahim
Hanipa said although he longed to see Muslims in certain positions, such idealism could not contradict the Constitution unless it is amended. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 — The appointment of non-Muslims to top government positions does not violate the Federal Constitution, a deputy minister said today.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin from Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) said critics against the appointment of Chief Justice Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, Attorney General Tommy Thomas, or Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government should take a look at the Constitution.

“Everyone should honestly accept the Federal Constitution as our supreme law in the country’s legal system. If we accept this, we must also agree that there are no political players that are allowed to operate beyond the scope of the Constitution.

“No one said the Constitution is perfect, but no one can deny that it has significant contributions to the country,” Hanipa said in a statement today.

The Federal Constitution does not state any racial or religious requirements for the post of prime minister or Cabinet members. Article 43(1) merely states that a prime minister is a Member of Parliament who commands the confidence of the majority of the House.

Hanipa, who is a lawyer by training, said that is why government officers, ministers and Members of Parliament must take an oath to protect the Constitution.

As a Muslim, the Sepang MP said although he longed to see Muslims in certain positions, such idealism could not contradict the Constitution unless it is amended.

“In short, it is not right to agree to play football, but want the rules of rugby to be applied in the game. People call that ‘tak aci’ (unfair) or ‘mengelat’ (cheating).”

Hanipa was responding to PAS information chief Nasrudin Hassan, who questioned the new government’s rationale in appointing non-Muslims to top government posts dealing with the law.

Nasrudin’s criticism followed the appointment of Malanjum, a Kadazandusun from Sabah, as the new Chief Justice in place of Tun Md Raus Sharif, who was appointed by the former Barisan Nasional government.

Malanjum is the third non-Muslim to be appointed to top judicial posts, after constitutional expert Thomas was made attorney-general and Parti Warisan Sabah’s Liew Vui Keong appointed as the de facto law minister in Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Cabinet.