KUCHING: Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) remain opposed to the proposed amendment of the Syariah Courts Act (Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1965) (Act 355) tabled in Parliament by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.
PRS president Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing said his party would not support any bill that might shake the foundation of the country based on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
He also questioned the notion that Act 355 was not hudud and the necessity of enhancing Syariah Courts.
“Act 355 is not hudud? I don’t know the details of Act 355, but whatever it is, if the Federal Constitution and the Syariah laws are being amended, then that is not part of the Islamic laws that we agreed to in MA63. Then we will not support,” Masing told The Borneo Post yesterday.
He said Malaysia had been peaceful and religiously harmonious in the last 53 years, and questioned why Syariah laws needed to be enhanced.
“Why the need to enhance punishments in Syariah law knowing that it will create suspicion, uneasiness and anger among non-Muslims? It appears that Malaysia considers religious interests above the interests of the multiracial nation,” he said.
The Deputy Chief Minister said regardless of the size of any religious group, there must be respect and tolerance of other religions and beliefs.
“Respect and tolerance of other people’s religious beliefs work both ways. Just because a group has the majority in number doesn’t make their beliefs right nor does being the minority make their beliefs wrong.
“Respect and tolerance of differences is the answer and solution in a multiracial society like Malaysia,” said Masing.
SUPP president Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian said his party remained steadfast and would oppose any bill that would jeopardise MA63.
“How could we support a bill that is presented by an opposition leader, unless we have a new BN?”.
On Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s announcement that the government would set up a parliamentary select committee comprising representatives from all political parties to discuss the matter further, Dr Sim said he would have to wait and see the content of the bill.
“We respect Islam. But MA63 says Malaysia is a secular state. And in the Agreement, it also stated that there must be consensus so that we can live harmoniously. And Sarawak signed the Agreement based on that,” he stressed.
Hadi’s private member’s bill seeks to increase the power of the Syariah Courts to mete out punishments.
The bill proposes to increase jail terms from the present maximum of three years to 30 years; maximum fine of RM5,000 to RM100,000, and maximum six strokes of the cane to 100.
There has been strong opposition to the bill for fear that it would pave the way for the implementation of hudud law in Kelantan.
Last year, the Kelantan State Legislative Assembly passed an amendment to Kelantan’s Syariah Criminal Code 1993 but could not enforce it due to Act 355.