Experts: No changes to Constitution needed
PETALING JAYA: A decision by the Government to recognise the Indian Muslim community as bumiputra will not need a Constitutional amendment, said law experts.
Granting a community bumiputra status, say experts, also does not mean giving them all the special privileges accorded to Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak under Article 153 of the Constitution.
While Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak are defined in the country’s top law, the Constitution does not define the term bumiputra, said Universiti Malaya’s Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi.
“If the Government wants to include the Indian Muslim community as bumiputra, I don’t see any hindrance as it would mainly be a political decision,” he said.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the Government would study in depth the request from the Indian Muslim community to be recognised as bumiputra.
The request was conveyed to Najib by the Federation of Malaysian Indian Muslim Associations (Permim) during the Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ministry’s Aidilfitri do with Malaysian Indian Muslim non-governmental organisations.
Najib said he accepted that Indian Muslims “are like bumiputra”.
Permim president Dhajudeen Shahul Hameed urged the Government to gazette the community as bumiputra, set up an Indian Muslim landmark in Kuala Lumpur or Putrajaya and appoint a special officer in the Prime Minister’s Department to manage the affairs of about one million Indian Muslims in the country.
Prof Shad Faruqi said the Constitution defines a Malay as a person who meets four requirements.
He or she must profess the religion of Islam, habitually speak the Malay language, conform to Malay customs and is rooted in this country – meaning they are born or have at least one parent born in Malaya or Singapore before Merdeka.
“The implication is that a person of Indian or Chinese origin would be a Malay if he meets all four requirements.”
He said some Penang Indian Muslims are, therefore, Malays as they meet all four requirements.
But some Indian Muslims do not follow the Malay culture or habitually speak the Malay language.
“The Government has on previous occasions included other communities such as the Portuguese as bumiputra, so I don’t see a problem if it also includes all Indian Muslims,” said Prof Shad Faruqi.
He said granting a community bumiputra status does not mean giving them all the special privileges accorded to Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak under Article 153 of the Constitution.
Lawyer Syahredzan Johan agreed that granting the Indian Muslim community bumiputra status would not require a Constitutional amendment as it only involved a policy decision.