PKR Sabah and Sarawak reaffirm stance against Act 355 amendments

Baru (left) and Liew

KUCHING: PKR Sabah and Sarawak remain firmly against the amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, or Act 355.

In a joint press statement issued by the chairmen of PKR Sabah Christina Liew and PKR Sarawak Baru Bian, both leaders said they agreed that PAS president and Marang MP Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, or indeed any MP, has a right to table a Bill, but that is the extent of their agreement.

“For us in Sabah and Sarawak, we wish to reiterate our stand on the matter.With respect, we differ on the view that the bill is merely to empower the Syariah Courts.

“We are opposed to the Bill in its current form as it is clearly a means to pave the way for hudud law to be imposed, which would in effect be introducing a dual criminal justice system, as explained by Professor Shad Faruqi in his piece ‘Enhancing Syariah courts’ powers’ published on June 9, 2016.

“This is unconstitutional, as it would violate Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees equality for all,” the statement read.

Liew and Baru were referring to the various statements issued by PKR leaders concurring with the party’s de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in ‘respecting the rights’ of Hadi Awang to table the amendments to the Syariah Courts Act (Act 355).

As for the PAS leaders’ assurances that the Bill will not be enforced on non-Muslims, Liew and Baru are not convinced that this Bill, if passed, will have no effect on non-Muslims.

“Even without hudud or Syariah laws, there have been many instances of over-zealous officers trying to impose Islamic practices or values on non-Muslims.

“The recent ruling in Kelantan, which imposed, that all shops must close and stop their activities during Maghrib prayers is one incontrovertible proof that such assurances are not guaranteed.

“Moreover, as pointed out by Professor Shad Faruqi, the dormant Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code (1993), which Hadi Awang is trying to breathe life into by his Act 355 Bill, extends to consenting non-Muslims, in violation of the Constitution, which provides that Syariah Courts have no jurisdiction over non-Muslims. We have not heard that Hadi Awang is planning to repeal that provision of the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code.”

“In fact, it was made abundantly clear that Malaysia would be a secular country, to allay the fears of our forefathers in this respect. Any attempt to introduce hudud or Syariah law in Malaysia will be viewed by Sabah and Sarawak as a breach of the Malaysia Agreement, and we would consider such a breach to be actionable in a court of law,” the statement explained.

In line with the autonomy enjoyed by PKR Sabah and Sarawak, Liew and Baru said they hold firm to their view that the objective sought to be achieved by Act 355 Bill is unconstitutional and breaches a fundamental term of the Malaysia Agreement.

“We therefore remain opposed to the Bill or any similar bill in the future, which may threaten the secular Malaysia our forefathers agreed to form in the first place.”