If Hadi’s bill is passed by Parliament, it would open the door to all other states to introduce hudud and severe forms of punishments, warns G25.
In an unprecedented move on 26 May 2016, the government tabled a motion to suspend its business in the Dewan Rakyat in order to fast-track a private Member’s bill brought forth by Pas president Abdul Hadi Awang (MP for Marang).
The motion to prioritise the 2016 Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) (Amendment) Bill was moved by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman.
The prime minister in a press statement had denied that Hadi’s bill was meant to implement Islamic criminal laws, that is to say, hudud. He was reported to have said, “I would like to clarify to our friends in Barisan Nasional (BN) that there was a misunderstanding. I would like to state that it is not for the implementation of hudud. It is just to give Syariah Courts enhanced punishments. From six-strokes caning to a few more depending on the offences” (Malay Mail Online, 27 May 2016).
We, members of G25, are not convinced by Najib’s assertion in his 27 May press interview that Hadi’s bill is not about implementing hudud.
Whilst we appreciate that the bill specifically states that the imposition of the death penalty by the syariah court is not permitted, the bill, however, significantly and in a general manner, permits the imposition of other forms of punishment.
Thus, it is open to the contention that, by implication, the bill permits the state legislatures to empower the syariah court to impose any form of hudud punishment other than the death penalty (for example, 100 lashes of whipping for an unmarried person guilty of adultery or the amputation of hand for theft).
In order to understand its underlying purpose, Hadi’s bill cannot be looked at in isolation. It is a known fact that Pas and the state of Kelantan are keen to implement hudud and, indeed, the State Legislative Assembly of Kelantan passed the 2015 Syariah Criminal Code II (1993) Bill.
This 2015 Bill prescribes hudud punishments for offences like adultery, theft, robbery, sodomy, consumption of liquor and apostasy. But the 1995 Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act does not permit the syariah court to impose hudud punishments; and, hence, this federal law has been an impediment to the state of Kelantan in making the Kelantan 2015 Bill a valid state enactment. Therefore, there is the need for the state of Kelantan to seek Parliament to amend the 1995 Act. And, so, here comes Hadi’s bill.
It is a give-away when Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, said that Hadi’s bill was not to make new laws but to confer on the syariah court the powers to implement hudud in Kelantan (Nation, 26 May 2016 ‘Zahid: Hudud Bill will only apply to Muslims in Kelantan’).
Our belief that Hadi’s bill has everything to do with the Kelantan’s 2015 Bill is further reinforced by a news report that Kelantan Menteri Besar Ahmad Yakob had urged all Muslims MPs to support Hadi’s bill should it be debated in the next parliamentary meeting. (See Malay Mail Online Report of 27 May 2016 ‘Kelantan MB wants Muslim MPs to back hudud Bill’.) (Hadi had successfully requested Parliament to defer the debate on his motion to October 2016)
We, in G25, categorically oppose Hadi’s bill and the Kelantan’s 2015 Bill. Although Article 3 of the Federal Constitution declares that Islam is the religion of the federation, still, constitutionally, Malaysia is a secular state, as our forefathers and the framers of the constitution had intended.
Further, our nation is a multi-religious, multi-racial and multicultural. As such, hudud is inappropriate and unacceptable to the vast majority of Malaysian society. Moreover, a law such as Kelantan’s 2015 Bill is unconstitutional by reason of Article 8 (equality before the law) of the Federal Constitution as Muslims in Kelantan will be subjected to two sets of laws: hudud and the Penal Code.
There is also the fear that if Hadi’s bill is passed by Parliament, it would open the door to all other states to introduce hudud and more severe forms of punishments. The bill, therefore, has long-term and far-reaching implications.
We urge the Kelantan state government to focus on improving the lives of the people of the state, the poorest in Peninsula Malaysia with the highest incidence of social ills, rather than being obsessed with hudud. Surely, the state government needs no reminding that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the pious caliphs who succeeded him had always emphasised the people’s welfare instead of a punitive approach to governing.
We, in G25, take the view that the government has a fiducial and moral duty towards the citizens to build a happy and prosperous Malaysia. What is more important to the life of the people and their happiness is how well the country is governed to create an environment of peace and stability, with all citizens feeling secure about the future.
Good governance, honest and responsible leadership, and a caring attitude by social and political leaders for the problems of the poor and the disadvantaged should be given high priority as they are essential for the economic and social progress of the country. Our leaders should focus their attention on these responsibilities in governing the country, instead of playing dangerous politics with hudud.
We, therefore, call on all Malaysians to reject this bill so that racial and religious harmony can be maintained and the country can progress to achieve our vision for a united, moderate and happy Malaysia.
31 May 2016