Our country will be taking a big risk with foreign and local investors if we have a system of laws which are more religiously oriented and less tolerant of modern lifestyles and values.
To all honourable Members of Parliament,
We, G25, anxiously appeal for a promise from each Honourable Member of Parliament to not support/cancel the debate on PAS’ private motion to amend Act 355, or Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, which will now be debated in Parliament.
We hope the honourable MPs would ponder upon and note that any amendment to Islamic laws should be done within the framework of the Federal Constitution.
Specifically, Article 4 provides for the superiority of the federal law and civil courts over state Islamic enactments and shariah courts. This ensures the existence of only one system of justice governing all Malaysians.
Limitations on the powers of the shariah courts:
Item 1 in the Ninth Schedule of the State List of the Federal Constitution states that the shariah courts “shall not have jurisdiction in respect of offences except in so far as conferred by federal law”.
The purpose of this provision is for Parliament to have oversight and control over offences, including the nature of punishments created by state enactments, so that the state legislatures do not have a free hand to create offences or to prescribe sentences.
Increasing status of the syariah courts complicates enforcement:
The desire to raise the status of the shariah courts to be on a par with the civil courts is worrying and very likely will shock our multiracial community as it will raise questions on the direction of the country’s legal system.
A secular system of justice existing side by side with the Islamic system is not only unconstitutional but will cause considerable confusion and uncertainty in the enforcement of law and order.
A big risk with investors:
Economists and international experts who have studied Malaysia’s remarkable economic development over a relatively short period to become one of the most advanced economies in the developing world, have always cited its system of law and administration as a key factor in attracting foreign and local investors to do business here.
It is a system which foreigners are familiar with because it is similar to what they find in their own countries.
Their presence is most important for the transfer of knowledge and technology so that Malaysians can benefit by developing our own skills to compete in the world market.
Our country will be taking a big risk with foreign and local investors if we have a system of law which is moving away from its original character to become more religiously oriented and less tolerant of modern lifestyles and values.
A step towards hudud:
Supporters of the PAS bill to amend Act 355 insist that there is no intention to introduce hudud.
Malaysians find this hard to believe as Kelantan, which is ruled by PAS, has already passed the Syariah Criminal Code II (1993) Enactment 2015, prescribing hudud punishment for zina (illicit sex), murder, theft, robbery, sodomy, consumption of liquor and apostasy.
But State law is currently prevented from being enforced because of Act 355.
Prioritising good governance in public institutions
A well-governed country with laws and governing institutions that provide social justice for the poor and the needy should be a priority for the country’s social and economic progression.
This would be more Islamic than the implementation of hudud.
We should be proud that our shariah index is higher than other Muslim countries because our children are better educated; health and medical facilities are available in all corners of the country; unemployment and poverty rates are low; and our youth can look forward to a brighter future.
Higher priority should be given towards improving the standards of governance and to strengthen the institutions of law and order so as to promote integrity and clean administration in the country.
These governing qualities are far more important to the country than policing the moral behaviour of Muslims and punishing them like criminals.
The personal sins of Muslims do not hurt others in the society or the economy but the corruption and financial mismanagement among politicians and civil servants and the perception that the institutions of justice favour those in power — these are the social diseases that can cause economies to collapse and the people to rise up against their rulers.
The government and MPs should be careful not to support the PAS bill and instead spend their energy in dealing with the unresolved problems surrounding 1MDB so that the country can turn its attention to deal with the bigger issues facing the economy, in particular the weak ringgit and the rising cost of living.
We do not need the PAS bill to divide the nation at a time when all races should stand together. The time now is for the real 1Malaysia.
G25 (The G25 is a group of former senior civil servants.)
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