Sarawak opposition: Don’t let shariah bill sneak through

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PETALING JAYA: Umno abandoned its bid to take over the PAS shariah bill because it does not have the numbers to push it through, says the opposition.

Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian said the Umno supreme council had to save face by claiming it was falling back on the Barisan Nasional consensus principle.

“The fact that Umno had announced it was taking over the bill from PAS without consulting its component partners shows it really does not care too much about consensus.

“Ultimately, it (the about-turn) is because they know they will not have the numbers to push the bill through and want to save themselves the embarrassment,” he said in a statement today.

But no matter whether it is forwarded by the government or PAS, into whose hands it appeared to have reverted, the bill is in violation of Article 8 of the Federal Constitution and should be rejected, he said.

“Our question is, why did the government decide to take over the bill in the first place, without any consideration for the rights and feelings of other groups in the country, and without any care for whether the bill was in keeping with the Federal Constitution?

“They should have realised the bill was not suitable because of its contents and implications to the people of the country as a whole. Whether it is labelled hudud or shariah, it is still a violation of Article 8.

“The act itself shows the type of leaders we have,” said Baru, who is Ba’Kelalan assemblyman.

Baru said Sabah and Sarawak must not budge from their stand just because the government had foregone taking over the bill.

“The effect will be the same if it is passed. Therefore, our MPs must stand united to vote against the bill.

“The worry is that some MPs may think that with this new development, they can absent themselves or abstain if the bill is put to the vote.

“With only a simple majority needed to pass the bill, all Sabahan and Sarawakian MPs must ensure that they are present to vote against it should it be tabled and put to the vote.

“Do not be lulled into complacency by this latest turn of events but remain on full alert,” he said.

State Reform Party (STAR) president Lina Soo agreed, saying the party was concerned the government’s reversal may be a trick to lull those who opposed the bill into relaxing their guard.

“This could be just a ploy to get the opposition to lower its guard so as to get the bill voted in when the house is not fully attended, as has happened on so many occasions.”

As the amendments were now likely to be presented as a private member’s bill by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, she reminded all who opposed Act 355 to remain vigilant.

“It requires only a simple majority to pass the bill. Should Sarawak MPs not turn up to vote against it, Act 355 may easily slip in through the door.”

Soo also warned that the government should be prepared to “face the wrath of the people of Sarawak” should it resort to underhanded means to push the bill through.

She reiterated that Act 355 was a blatant breach of Malaysia Agreement 1963, which stipulates that Sarawak shall have no state religion, and the Federal Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.

“STAR calls upon the Sarawak government and all Sarawak MPs to clearly reject the bill and be ready to vote against any attempt to sneak it through Parliament.”