Sunday, September 20

Compulsory to support Syariah Bill

Datuk Ahmad Maslan

Datuk Ahmad Maslan

KUCHING: All MPs of  Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties have to support the proposal by PAS to upgrade the Syariah courts when it became a government Bill as the federal government has taken it up.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had pledged at the Umno general assembly that the federal government would take up the Bill following discussions with the Islamist PAS.

The compulsory support of BN MPs for the Bill was stated by Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Ahmad Maslan during the Umno Overseas Club annual general meeting in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

In a report by Malaysiakini, the Pontian MP said several BN parties had opposed the private member’s Bill because it was tabled by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

“We hear that MCA didn’t like [the planned amendments]to Act 355. MIC objected, and Gerakan objected, too,”

“When we asked them why they opposed, the answered ‘How can we not? [The Bill] was brought by Hadi’,” Maslan was quoted saying.

Apparently, the deputy minister, who is an Umno supreme council member, was inferring now that the federal government had taken over the Bill, all BN component parties must support it.

This stand will put BN MPs who objected to the Bill in a quandary, especially those in Sarawak and Sabah, who had vowed to oppose the upgrade of the Syariah law.

They now face the difficult choice of breaking ranks from BN to stand their ground or face the wrath of their voters for backing down on their stand.

Meanwhile, Umno’s Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said at the same meeting that BN chose not to table the Bill initially because it would have to obtain consensus from all 14 states and go through certain procedures.

The minister in charge of Islamic Affairs said the government decided to let Hadi table a private member’s Bill to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, also known as Act 355,  to avoid going through all the procedures.

“Why [Hadi’s] Private Member’s Bill? Why didn’t the government table it directly? Because we have restrictions, our standard operating procedures.

“If the government brought the Bill, we need a consensus from 14 states brought to the cabinet, then to the National Islamic Council and then to the Rulers’ Conference.

“You can’t bring it to the Rulers’ Conference if you don’t have consensus from 14 states, but a private member’s bill requires only one state or one person to table it,” he explained.

The motion on the revised Bill was read out by Hadi in Parliament in late November but the explaining of the  Bill  was deferred to the next Parliamentary meeting in March next year.

If the Dewan Rakyat voted for the Bill, it would then be tabled as a Government’s Bill by a minister.

Jamil would likely be the minister since he had pledged to oversee the Bill “until its end”.