Wednesday, February 22, 2017

It'll be religious dictatorship if Act 355 is amended, says ex-treasurer-general

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Malaysia risks turning into a divided "failed state" ruled by a religious dictatorship if the Syariah Courts (Criminal Juridiction) Act 1965 or Act 355 is amended, warns former treasurer-general Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim.

"PAS leaders used to claim that Malaysian laws, which followed the trend of the Western world, were inefficient in reducing crimes and vice activities. In contrast, they argue that Act 355 will allow us to be more advanced in combating crimes.

"I, together with those who disagree with Act 355, are of the view that we will deviate from the principle of the Federal Constitution by implementing strict syariah laws. The Act will scare and split the people of multiracial backgrounds," said Sheriff, whose statement was uploaded on the Facebook page of the G25 Group of Eminent Malays on Monday.

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang tabled his motion for a Private Member’s Bill to amend Act 355 in Parliament last April in a move to expand the jurisdiction of the syariah court in passing sentences.

Last November, Hadi proposed amendments to raise the punishment cap of the syariah court to 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 lashes of the cane.

The motion to amend Act 355, as sought by Hadi, is due to be taken over by the government and debated in the next sitting of Parliament, which begins on March 6.

Resorting to vice activities for survival

Sheriff in his statement warned that social peace and economic stability would fall apart gradually and the country would become a "failed state" as a result of recession and widespread unemployment and poverty.

This, he said, could be found in many Islamic countries, where crimes and vice activities happened due to poverty and parents would resort to vice activities for survival.

"That is why we see drug smuggling, children trading, robbery and socially bad behaviour (in these Islamic countries)," he noted.

"What is there to be proud of the syariah laws if the country is in a mess? Women would be victimised as usual. Many would not take it and flee to Western countries. When women face pressure in terms of human liberty, the country will not progress fully," he added.

If there is a weakness in the secular laws in Malaysia, he said, the issue could be raised and debated openly in line with the principle of democracy.

"If we were to use the syariah law under Act 355, we must follow what the ulama group have decided because they see themselves as an intelligent group," Sheriff said.

"They forbid any warning from the public, especially from non-Muslims and academicians, who give a different view. They will be accused of going against the Islamic teaching and told to get out of Malaysia.
"This 'religious dictatorship' attitude is worrying and will prevent (us from becoming) a developed state.
"We should learn the lessons of countries that have implemented syariah laws and later regretted and attempted to abolish them for the sake of the social well-being and economic situation of the people," he said.

Sheriff said this 'religious dictatorship' attitude is not suitable for a parliamentary democracy like Malaysia.

"We are ahead of other Islamic countries due to our progressive administrative and legislative system. It will be a loss for us to change this system into a system that has caused the Islamic countries to lag behind," he added.

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