Pro-autonomy advocacy coalition Sarawak for Sarawakians (S4S) has called on parliamentarians from the state’s dominant Barisan Nasional (BN) component, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), to declare its opposition to proposed amendments to increase punitive powers of shariah courts.
S4S spokesperson Peter John Jaban, who also represents the native rights NGO, Borneo Dayak Rights Action Force (Bordraf), said the amendments would have far-reaching consequences in the state which does not have a Muslim majority.
He said the private member’s bill moved by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang would jeopardise the state’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious society and that PBB leaders must declare their intent to block it.
“Only Pesaka (PBB) remains silent and therefore the Dayak demand for them to declare themselves openly,” he said in a statement today.
The bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act (Act 355) is scheduled for tabling in the current session of the Dewan Rakyat which began yesterday.
PBB has 14 MPs, six of whom are Muslim. There are in total 31 MPs from Sarawak, including six from the opposition. DAP and PKR have already voiced their disapproval of the bill.
Last month, Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg, who is incidentally PBB president, reaffirmed the state government’s stand against hudud (Islamic criminal punishment). He said he would repeat the directive of his predecessor, the late Adenan Satem, to BN MPs in the state to reject the bill.
Peter noted that former Teras president William Mawan and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) president Tiong King Sing have stated they will support the amendments.
Mawan is MP for Saratok while SPDP has three parliamentarians, including Tiong.
Deputy Chief Minister James Masing, who leads Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) which has six MPs, opposes the bill.
Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) president Dr Sim Kui Hian has also affirmed that he will direct the party’s single MP to vote against it.
“The proposed amendments to this bill are being felt and perceived differently here in Sarawak,” Peter said.
“Not only do we have a different cultural, social and religious makeup to the peninsula, but also we guard our religious freedoms in a different way, highlighting personal choice and integration over institutional pressure and segregated systems.”
“This is why most of the locally-based parties here have already made it clear that they will vote against the amendments.
He added that when Sarawak agreed to form Malaysia in 1963, there was no understanding that it was joining or forming an Islamic state.
“As Masing himself has said, any changes to this now may create a constitutional crisis that will create cracks in the BN coalition. The founding fathers of our nation who drew up the constitution foresaw a secular legal system and it is on this basis that Sarawak agreed to form Malaysia,” Peter said.
He said “thankfully” most of the Sarawak parties have been clear and unequivocal on their stand against Act 355, with only Mawan and SPDP declaring their intention to support the BN coalition of the peninsula over “their own constituents and fellow Sarawakian MPs.”
Hadi moved the private member’s bill last May. It seeks to raise the maximum penalties for shariah offences to 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 strokes of the cane.
Source : @ FMT Online