Ex-CJ: Amend minor offences law to increase penalty

Former chief justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad says he had asked the attorney-general in 1972 to amend the law governing minor offences. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: A retired chief justice has urged the government to amend the Minor Offences Ordinance which provides a light sentence following reports that two Chinese women tourists were fined only RM25 each for dancing on a mosque perimeter wall in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Abdul Hamid Mohamad said he had made a suggestion as a magistrate in 1970 to amend the 1953 legislation to increase the punishment.

“In 1972, I wrote to the then attorney-general to make amendments but nothing was done,” he said in a blog posting.

The two women — Zhang Na, 25, and Wang Han, 37 — pleaded guilty before magistrate Cindy McJuce Balitus to committing indecent behaviour in a public place on June 24.

The offence carries a fine of up to RM25 or seven days’ jail for a first time offender.

Hamid said based on the facts of the case, the two could have been charged under section 298A of the Penal Code for causing disharmony or feelings of enmity on grounds of religion.

This provision carries a minimum jail term of two years and a maximum five-year imprisonment.

Hamid said it was time the law was amended to increase the punishment to reflect the changing times.

Pertubuhan Perpaduan Islam Sabah (PPIS) head Nani Sakam filed a complaint after a video clip of the dancing women went viral on social media, saying their act touched on the sensitivities of Muslims.

The two, who are dance teachers, were picked up by city police at a hotel in town before they were produced before the magistrate.

They pleaded guilty to the charge framed under Section 15 of the Minor Offences Ordinance and paid the fine.

The women were later escorted to the Kota Kinabalu International Airport to board a flight to China.