Third bill on shariah likely, this time from BN

Jamil-Khir_law_bn_600KUALA LUMPUR: The government today suggested it may table its own bill to widen the powers of shariah courts, the third such proposal after the private member’s bill tabled by the PAS president and another proposed by Amanah lawmakers.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom said the government was currently studying such a plan to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, which currently limits punishments meted out on shariah offenders to three years’ jail, six strokes of whipping and RM5,000 fine.

“If the amendment is approved by Parliament, the government would like to suggest that the shariah offender be punished with a penalty, including community service,” said Jamil in reply to Teresa Kok (DAP-Seputeh), adding that the Act had not been amended for a long time.

Kok had asked Prime Minister Najib Razak to state whether the Cabinet had discussed the bill tabled by PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang last May following statements from ministers and other interest groups on the plan.

The bill, largely seen as PAS’s move to eventually introduce hudud laws in Kelantan, has been slated for debate in the Dewan Rakyat today, listed at No. 5 on the Order Paper.

Hadi and other Umno ministers had said the bill was aimed at expanding the powers of shariah courts and not to introduce hudud laws.

Jamil’s answer today followed yesterday’s announcement by Amanah to table its own amendments to strengthen shariah courts.

Among others, Amanah said its bill proposed the formation of a special committee made up of shariah court chief judges from each state, professionals and religious scholars.

The PAS splinter party has dismissed Hadi’s bill as political “rhetoric”, while Umno has yet to make an official stand on the matter.