Protestant church leaders have made an open plea for MPs to show courage by voting against a proposed bill to enhance the powers of state syariah courts.
In an open letter published today, the Council of Churches Malaysia urged party leaders not to impose the party whip but to allow MPs to vote freely by their conscience.
MPs should view with “great concern, even alarm” a proposed private member’s bill by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang to enhance the criminal jurisdiction of syariah courts. The MPs should not take the proposal lightly.
Hadi’s Bill was not just about upgrading the power of the syariah courts, it was “rewriting the Constitution in a radical way”, said the council’s secretary, Rev Hermen Shashtri.
The council comprises the Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran and other Protestant churches in Malaysia.
He reminded political party leaders that MPs had been entrusted by the people to uphold the integrity of the Federal Constitution and protecting fundamental rights and liberties.
Hadi’s proposal to amend the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act would allow Syariah Courts to impose the hudud category of punishments, by removing the present limitations on the civil courts’ sentencing powers, he said.
Rev Shashtri said Hadi had crossed the boundary of his authority by seeking to amend federal law.
He said the constitution was clear that religious laws were to operate primarily in personal and family law, while penal laws came strictly under the purview of federal legislation.
Rev Shashtri said the churches would hold MPs in their prayers that they would “do the right thing to safeguard the democracy that shapes the life of our nation”.
FMT Reporters Online