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Friday, June 3, 2016

Sabah churches also concerned

KOTA KINABALU - The Private Member's Bill by PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang seeking to increase penalties for Muslim Syariah offenders in Kelantan may, upon eventual extension to other parts of the nation, see a great number of Sabahans also becoming victims.

This is because of the significant number of Sabahans who claim to have been erroneously listed as Muslims by NRD officials in the peninsula because of having "Bin" and "Binti"when their identity cards were changed from the Bunga Raya card to MyKad.

There have been complaints that these cases are often referred to Jheains for verification and declaration which the holders say are unfair since they were never Muslims.

Chairman of the Sabah Council of Churches Datuk Jerry Dusing (pic) said that in the last 10 years, only five out of 500 cases handled by the Sijil Injil Borneo (SIB) church were resolved.

He said there was a real worry that the success of the PAS initiative in Kelantan may inspire like-minded groups in other states and state religious authorities, to do likewise.

Apostates in Sabah are subject to whipping, besides jail and rehabilitation since 1995. Matters concerning the conversion and custody of children from a civil marriage when one parent had converted had also yet to be conclusively settled.

The contents of the Private Member Bill itself seek to amend Section 2 of the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 and to enhance the jurisdiction of the punishment for offence under the Syariah Courts which is limited to a term of imprisonment not exceeding three years, or whipping of not more than six strokes, or fine of not more than RM5,000.

There are concerns that, once the Syariah courts are empowered to impose any punishment except death, it would then be followed with the introduction of new criminal offenses by the states in the Syariah courts with punishments exceeding the current jurisdiction as allowed under the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965.

This will create duplicity of offences and the creation of two sets of laws governing the citizens of this country which goes against the equality and equal protection guarantees under the Federal Constitution.

"Hence, it would be very unfair for the many IC 'converts' in Sabah to face increased penalties under Islamic laws due to no fault of theirs, imposed by bureaucrats' presumptive commission or mistakes," Rev Dusing said.

He said this fact should be highlighted to all those who believe the public should not be overly concerned as the increased penalties only involved Muslims.

He also noted that under the 20 Points safeguards promised to Sabah for agreeing to join in forming Malaysia in 1963, it was agreed that there should be no state religion in Sabah. However, first elected Chief Minister Tun Mustapha disregarded this and made Islam the state religion.

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