OUTSPOKEN: It has been the practice that the prime minister makes his Hari Raya address through RTM on the eve of the celebration. This has been the case since the days of Tunku Abdul Rahman who became the chief minister after the first general elections in 1955. When Datuk Seri Najib Razak assumed the office in 2009 he even brought along his wife to appear on the big screen.
It was not known why Tunku started the practice. For one thing the celebration is part of the Islamic religion: it is celebrated at the conclusion of the month-long fasting for the Muslims. The prime minister is not the head of Islam for the federation. Neither is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
But at least the latter has been allowed to represent the nine rulers as stated by Article 3(2) of the Federal Constitution, our supreme law. As a matter of law, the prime minister may not be a Muslim and should we have one it would be difficult for him or her to continue with the practice.
As Islam has been put under the jurisdiction of the rulers it is therefore more proper for occasions like Raya celebration to be led by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The matter should also be exclusively reserved for him as he, unlike the prime minister, stands above party politics. Over the years we have seen how the Raya address by the prime minister carried a certain amount of political tone.
When I was studying in England many years ago I made it a point to follow the Christmas address made by Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning British sovereign. What I noticed was that the speeches were made in such a way that they did not sound political. There were times, of course, when she had to make references to some ongoing issues.
But she made it in such a way that it did not sound political. The occasions included, among other things, the deployment of UK forces in foreign countries, something that was obviously decided by the politicians. Nonetheless as it was the Head of State who said it, the issue became less political.