The Sarawak Barisan Nasional, after meeting all parties in the state, has made a suggestion to the federal government regarding the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, otherwise known as Act 355.
In revealing this, Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg said he was, however, not at liberty to divulge it.
“Let Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak make the announcement,” he was quoted as saying by The Borneo Post.
The chief minister was speaking at a press conference after addressing civil servants in the state here yesterday.
Abang Johari said he had met with Sarawakian BN MPs on Monday night in Kuala Lumpur where they discussed this and other matters.
“Actually they have discussed with all the parties from Sarawak and we have suggested something which I cannot divulge. We discussed and expressed our view and the prime minister is looking into our view,” he was quoted as saying.
All he would say is that they “brought the case of Article 8 (of the Federal Constitution) on equality before the eyes of the law,” to the prime minister’s attention.
He added that the federal government would have to look further into the bill in view of the Federal Constitution requirement under Article 8.
The amendments to Act 355, pushed by PAS, seek to allow stiffer punishments for shariah offenders. However, many see this as setting the stage to usher hudud Islamic criminal punishment in Kelantan, and later to the rest of the nation.
It has resulted in a controversy, with non-Muslim BN parties and the Sarawak BN opposing it. They want safeguards in place to ensure non-Muslims will not be affected in any way.
At Monday’s meeting, Abang Johari told all BN MPs from Sarawak to speak out if the amendment to the Stamp Act ignored the rights of Sarawak and Sabah to stamp duty revenue collected in the two states.
In 2015, the government collected RM5.974 billion in stamp duty against RM219.09 billion in total revenue, based on Putrajaya’s financial statements for 2015, according to the Borneo Post report. The 2016 financial statements are not yet available.
Currently, all the stamp duty revenue goes to the federal government although based on the Malaysia Agreement signed in 1963 stamp duties collected in Sarawak and Sabah should be retained by the two states.
“We have to get the federal government to acknowledge that if it is based on land transaction and real estate, it is our right and the revenue should come to the state… I think they are amending it,” The Borneo Post quoted him as saying.
In his speech to the civil servants, Abang Johari said the state government was committed to restoring its rights.
“During that time when we were still new, we didn’t know that there are many powers that have been eroded. Maybe we knew but we were afraid to say something about erosion of our power.
“When Tok Nan (the late chief minister Adenan Satem) came in, the whole Cabinet supported Tok Nan to get back the power that had been eroded.”
However, he cautioned that getting back its rights did not mean the state government was “fighting” with the federal government.
“No, we are working together with Putrajaya but if the power is with us, we have to protect our rights. Tok Nan has done it. I can assure you that Abang Jo will continue it,” The Borneo Post quoted him as saying.
Source : @ FMT Online