‘Sabah, Sarawak MPs must defeat Hadi’s bill’

Simon-Sipaun

PETALING JAYA: Sabah and Sarawak MPs must defeat a motion to debate a Private Members Bill to enhance punishments for shariah offences as it is against the right to freedom of religion that the two territories had agreed to in forming Malaysia.

Former Human Rights Commission vice-chairman Simon Sipaun said politicians should be aware of this as that guaranteee was outlined in separate agreements from both states.

“We are appealing to those in power and authority but they should know better. The motion is all about politics and religion,” said Sipaun.

Sipaun said this in response to a document unveiled yesterday in four languages, including Iban and Kadazan, to create awareness among the people in both states on the far reaching implications of the motion.

Ranging from former and current politicians across the political divide, to former top civil servants, professionals to businesspersons, 20 Sabahans and Sarawakians decided to speak up on why the motion to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355) should be defeated.

The Dewan Rakyat on April 6 had allowed PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang to introduce his motion but Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia deferred debate and vote to the July session.

Sipaun, the group’s spokesman, said they may not succeed in their move but the future generation must know that public spirited citizens had made an attempt to stop the passage of the law that would allow for further Islamisation to creep in.

“We speak for Malaysians as all citizens must be subjected to one civil law,” he told FMT.

He said it was a blatant lie to claim that the bill had nothing to do with introduction of hudud punishments.

Sipaun said if passed in its current form, the bill would immediately enable three hudud punishments in the shariah criminal laws in Kelantan and Terengganu – 100 strokes for fornication, 80 strokes for unsubstantiated accusation of adultery or sodomy (qazaf) and 40 to 80 strokes for consumption of alcohol.

“Together with the disproportionality of offences and punishments, the introduction of these three hudud punishments will qualitatively alter the secular nature of the legal system,” he said.

Sipaun said the propaganda being pushed by PAS and other parties supporting the bill, saying that it would not affect non-Muslims, was also misleading and deceitful.

“When disputes arise as to whether someone is a Muslim or not, the civil courts abdicate jurisdiction to the Syariah Courts,” he said of the reality of events that have been taking place over the last 30 years.

He said in many cases the Orang Asli and natives were falsely registered as Muslims and there were forced conversions of non-Muslim children in orphanages.

“There are also cases of unilateral conversions to Islam of children in a non-Muslim marriage, when one spouse later converts to Islam.

“There are cases of body snatching of deceased persons because the religious authorities claim, despite overwhelming contrary evidence, that the deceased was Muslim.”

Sipaun said conversions to Islam were easy but if one intended to revert back to one’s original religion, it was made almost impossible.

“In such a state of affairs it is difficult to argue that shariah laws will not affect non-Muslims,” he added.

He said the propaganda that the bill would affect only West Malaysians because Sabah and Sarawak would not implement hudud punishments was also misleading.

“It ignores the fact that hundreds of thousands of East Malaysian Muslims study, work, live in or travel to Peninsular Malaysia,” he said.

Once the bill is passed, he said they would not be exempted from the three hudud punishments in Kelantan and Terengganu, adding it was also more than likely that the implementation of these hudud punishments would eventually be extended to other West Malaysian states.

“The founding fathers of Sabah and Sarawak did not sign up for a federation where personal religious misconduct of Muslims could be punished far heavier than robbery,” he said.

Hadi is seeking to obtain approval from Parliament to raise the punishment to a maximum of 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine, and 100 strokes of light caning for syariah criminal offences.

At present, punishment is limited to a maximum three-year prison term, RM5,000 fine, and six strokes of the cane.

The motion needs a simple majority approval from MPs to proceed further for second and third readings.

Hadi’s motion could be defeated if all the 56 MPs from both states and Labuan voted against it.

On March 29, Barisan Nasional chairman Najib Razak said the government would not table the bill in line with the principle of consensus adopted by the coalition. However, it later helped push the motion up the agenda on the last day of the Dewan Rakyat sitting on April 6.