KUCHING: PKR Sarawak chairman Baru Bian supports the concerns raised by Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg on the discriminatory and unconstitutional elements in the proposed amendment to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355).
DAP Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen, on the other hand, opined that Abang Johari’s statement that he would leave it to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to tackle the concerns raised as being ‘a bit ambiguous’.
Baru, who is Ba Kelalan assemblyman, said Abang Johari was right to be concerned about the discriminatory and unconstitutional elements.
He also applauded the Chief Minister’s misgivings with the Prime Minister about the constitutionality issues with the Act 355 Bill with respect to equality for all under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution.
“We cannot accept Shariah law, for Malaysia already has a supreme law, which is the Federal Constitution. Article 4 of the Constitution declares it simply: ‘This Constitution is the supreme law of the Federation’,” Baru said.
The Act 355 Bill, also known as RUU355, is expected to be tabled and debated in the current parliamentary meeting, and a vote may be called for it to be passed.
Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang had last year tabled a Private Member’s Bill to seek the amendments to Act 355 to enhance the punishment meted out by the Syariah Court.
The bill proposes to increase jail term from the present maximum of three years to 30 years; fine of RM5,000 to RM100,000 and the present maximum six lashes of cane to 100 lashes.
The Kelantan State Legislative Assembly had passed an amendment to Kelantan’s Syariah Criminal Code 1993 in 2015 but it could not enforce it due to Act 355.
Hadi’s Bill has been met with strong opposition from non-Muslims for fear that once passed, it will pave the way for the implementation of hudud in the nation.
Due to the strong opposition from other BN component parties such as MCA and MIC, Umno which is supportive of the bill decided to take over it and table it as a government bill.
Sarawak Barisan Nasional parties — Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) — have said that they would instruct their federal lawmakers to vote against the Bill.
Baru hoped all Sarawak MPs have the courage to reject Act 355 if it is tabled in Parliament, saying there must be no absences, convenient ‘meetings’ or urgent ‘official trips’ that require them to be away from Parliament should the Bill be tabled and presented for voting.
He said they must be present to vote against the Bill to carry the Sarawak conscience and the aspiration of the country Malaysia is meant to be.
“Let the Hansard show that Sarawakian MPs have the courage and the conviction to stand up and be counted when it matters most.
“At the same time, Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg must instruct all Sarawakian MPs to be present in Parliament when the Bill is tabled and debated, and to vote against it,” he said.
He pointed out it is crucial that Sarawakians stand together to defend the rights which they secured under the Malaysia Agreement 1963, the Malaysia Act, the pre-formation documents and the Federal Constitution.
“Hadi Awang and Umno may say this is Syariah and not hudud, but as far as I understand it, hudud is part of the Syariah and the proponents had said this bill was to pave way for hudud punishments in Kelantan. This attempt at RUU355 is but a political contest between Umno and PAS to champion the implementation of Syariah Law in Malaysia,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chong who is also Bandar Kuching MP, said all the five MPs from DAP Sarawak have been assigned to watch over the 25 Sarawak MPs when the Bill is put to vote.
“We will play our part on what actually transpires during the crunch of the matter – that is the voting time for the Bill,” he said.
~ Borneo Post