The state government is concerned about discriminatory and unconstitutional elements in the proposed amendment to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 or Act 355.
Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said he met all 25 Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) members of parliament in Kuala Lumpur recently and they came up with their position on the matter.
Abang Johari said he has also communicated Sarawak BN’s position to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
He pointed out there should not be discrimination in imposing penalties as Article 8 of the Federal Constitution clearly emphasised equality in the eyes of the law.
“Let the Prime Minister tackle it. No need for me to tell you. What we suggest is to look at it (Act 355) judiciously. We fear there is an element that is discriminatory. This is syariah law, nothing to do with hudud, but the only thing we are concerned about is the penalty,” he told a press conference after launching the 1Malaysia Civil Servants Housing Programme (PPA1M) at Muara Tuang yesterday.
“For example, if I am caught stealing with another friend, he’s a non-Muslim and I am a Muslim. The penalty on me could be higher than his penalty in the civil court. But, under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, everybody is equal under the eyes of the law.
“So, there must be no discrimination in terms of penalty because we are equal. He’s Malaysian and I’m Malaysian. He’s a non-Muslim and I am a Muslim. The penalty must be equal,” he said.
The Act 355 Bill is expected to be tabled and debated during the current parliamentary session, and a vote may be called.
Last year, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang tabled a private members’ bill to seek amendments to Act 355 to enhance Syariah Court penalties.
The bill proposed to increase the jail term from the present maximum of three years to 30 years; maximum fine of RM5,000 to RM100,000; and the maximum six strokes of the rotan to 100.
The Kelantan State Legislative Assembly had passed an amendment to Kelantan’s Syariah Criminal Code 1993 in 2015, but could not enforce it due to Act 355.
Act 355 has been met with strong opposition from non-Muslims, who fear that once passed it would pave the way for the implementation of hudud law.
Umno, which is supportive of the bill, has since tabled it as a government bill.
Meanwhile, Abang Johari revealed that Sarawak and Sabah share a common stand against the proposed amendment to the Stamp Act should it ignore the rights of both states to collect stamp duty revenue.
He said Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Aman agreed to take the common stand following his one-day official visit to Sabah on Thursday.
“We have something in common between Sabah and Sarawak, something unique. The common stand agreed with my counterpart in Sabah is about the Stamp Act, which affects us. Because in Sabah, they have their own Sabah Land Code, much like we in Sarawak, where we have the Sarawak Land Code.
“We are not bound by the national land code. I told the Sabah Chief Minister of our position, and other things which I cannot reveal,” added Abang Johari.
Source : Samuel Aubrey @ Borneo Post Online