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A hot potato for Sabah, Sarawak
Published on: Saturday, April 08, 2017

By Datuk Johan Arriffin
THE tabling of Hadi’s Private Member Bill RUU 355 on April 6, 2017 has left the general public in a state of confusion with regards to the government’s true intention on Hadi’s Private Member Bill, and the public second guessing of what is the government end game.

As a member of G25 from Sabah I think it is very important for the people to understand the arguments of RUU 355 in depth as there are long term implications which may affect everybody. Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad, the former Chief Justice of Malaya, in his September 29, 2016 commentary stated that some people are heard to say that the amendment will involve only Kelantan. This is also incorrect he says as Act 355 is a federal law.

It applies throughout Malaysia and does not say it will apply only in Kelantan and the public must be made aware of this fact.

We have read about the political manoeuverings behind close doors amongst the Barasian National Component parties but none has come out strongly to oppose Hadi’s Bill and prevented the Bill from being read in the August House. While the people watched the shenanigans in Parliament on that day with disgust, they are reminded that Hadi’s Bill is still alive as the Bill has not drawn its final conclusion.

In other words, Hadi can still continue to present his Bill in the next Parliamentary sitting and it could be passed by a simple majority and setting off dangerous precedence for our multi-religious and multi-racial nation.

It is also strange that a small opposition party PAS is given the privilege to table a Private Members Bill unless there are ulterior motives.

We come to know the issues only from the mass media as Hadi or the government has not explained clearly what is the intention of RUU 355 except for the increase in jail term of more than 30 years or fine more than RM100,000 or 100 lashes as administered in line with the Syariah crimes. We do not know what crimes under Syariah Courts that deserves the harsh 100 strokes of rotan or more than 30 years in jail.

Although Hadi claims to speak for all Muslims, most of the moderate Muslims that I know are apprehensive of his Bill just like other non-Muslims. Apart from G25 and handful others, moderate Muslims fear of speaking out openly for fear of repercussions.

What people fear, especially in East Malaysia, is the implementation of Hudud law and the increase of sentencing in Shariah Courts which may eventually put it on par with our current Criminal Justice System.

In a multi-religious and muti-racial country like ours, introduction of such laws will definitely affect the harmony and peace that we have enjoyed since independence and put us on the path of becoming an Islamic State.

Such a Bill should be properly discussed and explained and especially what is the intention of the Private Members Bill. It should not be rushed or rammed through Parliament. Even Mohamad Apandi, the Attorney General of Malaysia in his April 1, 2017 interview feels RUU 355 was more political than legal and the purpose and intention of this is to reap political mileage.

It’s a hot potato in Sabah and Sarawak and this is why Apandi observed that they may have to exclude Sabah and Sarawak or to make it different, and even reduce the sentences, if BN is to remain in power.

The questions we should ask is:-

(i) Is Hadi’s Bill to bring Shariah law above our Criminal Justice System under a concept of Islamic State;

(ii) is it to bring in a dual system of law under our constitutional monarchy, one for Muslims and one for others;

or

(iii) is it to serve the political interest of a party.

We note that other important Bills like the unilateral religious child conversions was not tabled at the same Parliamentary sitting and Hadi’s was given top priority before Parliament was adjourned sine die.

In our Sabah Constitution 5B (2) as we understand it, it is stated that the Legislative Assembly (State) shall be responsible for making provisions for regulating the Islamic religious affairs and for constituting a Council to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in matters relating to the religion of Islam.

Has Parliament overstepped the powers of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in this case? This is the exact question that Mohamed Tawfik bin Tun Dr Ismail is trying establish through legal means and to bring attention to the August House.

It would be better for all parties to come clean on this contentious issue which could result in long term damage to the peace and racial harmony of the nation. And not forgetting to mention that it would drive foreigners away from our shores who come here either to invest or for leisure.

We must continue to petition our Members of Parliament to stand up for moderation and do the right thing for Malaysia.

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