18 OCTOBER 2016
Many individuals and organisations have expressed objections to the PAS President’s Private Member’s Bill to amend the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction Act) 1965 which was listed to be read in Parliament this week.
The question needs to be asked why UMNO is so amenable to this Private Member’s Bill that it gets a high ranking on the list of bills to be read. It looks like UMNO has a common agenda with PAS notwithstanding having been labeled as ‘kafir’ by PAS in the past. Nobody needs to be a genius to know that it is all for political expediency; the need to hold on to Malay support in the heartland.
People have begun to realize that this bill will affect everyone, not just the Muslims as those proponents of the bill claim. This is no different to the ban on the ‘Allah’ word, which the government claimed would not affect Sarawakians and Sabahans. If this motion is passed, it will set in motion a movement to slowly and perhaps insidiously, expand the implementation of Hudud law in Malaysia.
The supremacy of secular law under Article 142 of the Federal Constitution in Malaysia has been upheld in the landmark case of Che Omar bin Che Soh v PP by the Supreme Court. In that case, the court rejected the argument that the death penalty for drug trafficking was unconstitutional for offending the principles of Islam. The Lord President held that Article 3, which recognizes Islam as the official religion of the Federation, was never meant to extend the application of Syariah to the sphere of public law.
We should not forget that one of the preambles in the Proclamation of Malaysia, declared by Tunku Abdul Rahman, is ‘… whereas there has been promulgated a Constitution for Malaysia which shall be the supreme law therein…’. The supremacy of the Federal Constitution is clearly spelt out in Article 4. This was the social contract to which our forefathers agreed and we must not allow it to be rewritten to dramatically alter the landscape of this country of which we are a part.
In all matters of upholding our rights, and not just this Hudud Bill, we must be consistent. One crucial related matter is the issue of conversion. Regrettably, religious conviction has been politicised in this country for so long that people accept it as the norm. Religion has been legislated and policed in this country so much that the notion of religious freedom has become illusory for many.
All the hurdles put in the way of Malaysians who wish to exercise their rights to their choice of religion by way of requirements for consent, counseling, attending courses are unconstitutional as they contravene Article 11 of the Federal Constitution. Given the refusal of closed-minded groups to accept these rights or even to discuss the matter, it is not surprising that opponents of the Hudud Bill such as Siti Kassim had to resort to gestures to voice their opinions.
Would it be too much to hope that should the matter come up for a vote, MPs will vote according to their conscience and not sacrifice justice and fairness for political expediency?
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak / ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan