PKR leader Baru Bian said he was encouraged by Chief Minister Adenan Satem’s announcement last June that a Non-Islamic Affairs Unit will provide a platform for religious issues to be discussed.
However, Baru said it is of “great concern” that there has been no further announcement on this “unit”, nor is there any leader of such a unit.
“As a result, the state’s current Syariah court system still leaves Muslims who had converted for the purpose of marriage without a legal path to leave the religion, and return to their original faith,” Baru said.
In his speech while debating on the state Budget 2017 in the Sarawak State Assembly, Baru referred to three applicants who recently had their appeals to leave the religion rejected by the Court of Appeal.
“The woes of former Muslim converts continue unabated. It has been a long and hard journey, and it is truly a shame that for them, the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion are still but an illusory ideal that is out of reach,” Baru said.
The Ba’Kelalan assemblyman said even the civil courts had suggested that the appellants could turn to the State Legislature for redress.
“This is indeed the way to solve this problem and to make it easier for other applicants in the future. The Sarawak Syariah Court had admitted in writing that it has no jurisdiction over matters of apostasy.
“Therefore, it cannot be left for the civil court to interpret jurisdiction ‘by implication’ when the Syariah Court itself has disclaimed jurisdiction. This leaves the applicants in a catch-22 situation through no fault of their own,” he said.
Baru proposed that the Sarawak Syariah Court Ordinance 3 2001 be amended to make clear provision that when a person has declared by a statutory declaration or any other legal method that he or she has converted out of Islam, the Syariah Court should have no jurisdiction over that person, the jurisdiction resting with the Civil Court pursuant to Section 25(2) of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964.
Baru added that this would be consistent with the guarantee of freedom of religion under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.
“Syariah Courts in Malaysia are creatures of statute, deriving their powers from the respective state Syariah laws. Our freedom to choose our religion should be really free, and the people concerned should not have to suffer this frustrating and lengthy administrative and legal battle to claim this right.
“I hope the chief minister, as a strong advocate for religious freedom, will take the opportunity this DUN session to propose the amendment as a solution for those who wish to exercise their freedom to leave Islam,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) president Dr Sim Kui Hian told the media that the BN-component stands with a directive made by Chief Minister Adenan Satem yesterday in opposing PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s hudud bill.
Sim told reporters that Adenan had directed all BN MPs to turn up in Parliament and vote against Hadi’s bill, which is seen as a precursor to the implementation of hudud nationwide.
Sim said SUPP “does not agree with the emergence of two criminal justice systems” as it contradicts the Federal Constitution and Malaysia Agreement while affecting the rights and lifestyle of all Malaysians.
Sim had pointed out that the Kelantan assembly had passed the amendment of the state’s Syariah Criminal Code 1993 but could not enforce it due to the limits imposed in the existing Act 355.
“Once again PAS has not only shown blatant disregard for the rights and sentiments of all racial groups within our nation, but also consistently challenging the spirit of the Federal Constitution for mere political mileage.
“This is not acceptable in a multi-racial, multi-faith society,” he said.
Sim also said the DAP must share the blame for the current political situation.
“In GE13, DAP pledged to voters that Pakatan Rakyat would not advance hudud and called upon voters, including non-Muslims, to support PAS. DAP leaders must apologise to the voters for ‘making PAS stronger and helping PAS achieve its objective’,” Sim said.
Source :Richard T.W.@FMT Reporters Online