ACCORDING to the report by The Borneo Post of March 9, a deal had been struck between YAB Tan Sri Muhyddin Yassin, Prime Minister of Malaysia and leader of a loose coalition of Peninsula-based parties called Perikatan Nasional (PN – Umno, MCA, MIC, PAS, and Azmin Ali’s group), and YAB Abang Johari Tun Openg, Chief Minister of Sarawak and chairman of GPS.
The deal consists of three-point conditions, as follows:
(i) Recognition by the Federal Government of the rights of the State of Sarawak under the Malaysia Agreement 1963;
(ii) Recognition by the Federal Government of the rights of Sarawak over the State’s natural resources, in particular, over oil and gas found within its territory; and
(iii) Acknowledgment by the PN (Umno, MCA, MIC), PAS, Bersatu and YB Azmin Ali’s followers that GPS is not part of the Perikatan Nasional (PN); the Sarawak coalition is a partner ONLY in the Federal Administration known as the PN Plus GPS Government.
Many conditions of a political nature are not cast in stone; they are often ignored with impunity depending on the individuals concerned. Even though they are in writing, they don’t bind the successors of the political office. At best, they are points of understanding.
On that basis, we can engage the government of the day, personal preferences notwithstanding. In this context, I have earlier stated my stance in my column last week that formation of a government via the ‘backdoor’ (unelected by popular vote at a general election) creates a dangerous precedent and does not augur well for the parliamentary democracy like Malaysia. As I said there, let this be the first (apa boleh buat) and the last civil coup d’état in Malaysia.
Nevertheless, the present setup is a government unless a court of law rules that it is not constitutionally formed. We must move on.
Other points of understanding?
Apart from the conditions already disclosed to the public, as above, no one else knows, except the parties to the deal concerned. It is their right and privilege to keep other assurances or promises close to their chests and to disclose them to members of the public at the appropriate time and place of their choice.
I’m saying this to many of my Facebook friends, among whom are personalities walking in the corridors of power in the state. They are a curious lot. They have better access to the seat of power than I do, yet they want to know from me what other agreement has been reached between Sarawak government and the federal government with respect to the introduction of hudud law to Sarawak. I have not the slightest idea.
They ask if the controversial RU355 Bill of 2017 will be revisited. I don’t know.
But we have the right to be inquisitive. May we ask if the new government will retable the Bill (RU355), a legislation advocated and proposed by PAS three years ago? In 2017, it was tabled as a Private Member’s Bill by the MP for Marang, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang. This was to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 in order to increase certain quantum of fines, among others.
Despite the assurances that the provisions of the amendment of the Act would not apply to non-Muslim offenders, the way it was presented caused a profusion of confusion: was it hudud or was it not?
Now that PAS is a partner of the federal government, one would expect that their leaders will pursue their agenda. With the support of the other partners in the grand coalition, PAS may get what it wants this time around. How do we know that this was not a condition of PAS’ participation in the federal government?
This time around, it must be made very clear to those in Sarawak who are not familiar with the Syariah law that the RU355 was not hudud as such. As a corollary, there is no intention to introduce hudud law at all as to Sarawak.
Sarawakians need sincere assurance from time to time when it comes to religious matters. Many Christians in the state are wondering if they are allowed to use the word Allah for God when they visit or reside in any part of Peninsular Malaysia; to import copies of the Holy Bible into the state for their own use. And, as for the other religious groups in Sarawak, they would want to know if they can continue practising their respective religions in peace and harmony as usual.
The government, both state and federal, would be doing a great service to these religious communities if the authorities could assure the ordinary people soon that the freedom of religion enshrined in the federal constitution remains untampered with at all times and in all places.
Old questions seeking new answers
At this early stage of the tenure of office of the federal government, I would rather ask some specific questions than those which the present government may not have time to answer fast. My questions are those which the ministers in the previous government did not have time to answer. This time, what is the new federal government going to do about the findings of the Public Inquiry conducted by Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) from Oct 19 to Nov 17, 2017 into the enforced disappearances respectively of Pastor Raymond Koh, Amri Che Mat, as well as Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth?
The present government would be highly commended if they would please tell us if these hamba Allah are still alive somewhere. If so, please deliver them to their respective families as soon as possible.
RCI – my suggestion
Failing which, the government should think in terms of forming a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI). Readers of this column may recall that Suhakam while conducting a public enquiry into the disappearances of those Malaysian citizens discovered incredible information on the suspects, who were alleged to have taken away Pastor Koh and friends against their will. If any of Suhakam’s findings are in doubt, then it would be advisable for the government to establish that RCI, in order to confirm or dismiss as false the findings of Suhakam, just so that there will be a closure to the horrible incident.
I think the present government has the responsibility to clean up our country’s image in the international arena on this score.
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