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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Sabahan Muslim moots separate legal system for Borneo if Hadi’s Bill passed

A Sabahan Muslim proposed today a separate judicial system for Sabah and Sarawak if Parliament passes PAS’s Bill to enhance the Shariah courts’ punitive powers.

Amde Sidek, a researcher and writer from Kota Kinabalu, started an online petition last Sunday to “renegotiate” the Federal Constitution or to create a new one entirely so that all states and territories of the Malaysian federation comprising the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak, will be given the autonomy to pursue their own aspirations and “preferred lifestyles”.

“Sabah and Sarawak cannot be dragged into Malayan politics; if Malaysia is to remain Malaysia, it can only be done by having two Malaysias — two political systems, namely Malaya and Borneo States,” Amde told Malay Mail Online.

“Borneo States want to be detached from that [Shariah criminal] legal system other than the original one agreed upon. This is also still within the concept of autonomy,” he added.

Borneo states have some degree of autonomy as guaranteed in the 1963 Malaysia Agreement memorandums signed with Malaya — the 18-point (Sarawak) and 20-point (Sabah) agreements which give the states authority over matters like religion, language and immigration — but the Malaysian government remains heavily centralised.

Amde said in his petition that the actions of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said and Deputy Works Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin — who had proposed and seconded a motion respectively to fast-track PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s private member’s Bill to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 — indicated a “historic shift” of Putrajaya’s position on the secular nature of the Malaysian federation.

“In forming Malaysia with Malaya and Singapore in 1963, Sabah and Sarawak signed up for a liberal and secular federation, not a theocratic one where any religious criminal justice system may be in force in any part of the Federation,” said Amde.

“Religious freedom was amongst the top demands of Sabah and Sarawak in the negotiations on the Malaysia Project, which produced the Inter-Governmental Committee Report and eventually the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

“Sabah and Sarawak would have stayed as British colonies if Shariah criminal law was an item in the negotiation,” he added.

The researcher on politics and sociology said Hadi’s Bill — which seeks to lift the restrictions, excluding the death penalty, on Shariah court punishments that are currently limited to three-year jail terms, six strokes of the cane and RM5,000 fines — was intended to alter the secular nature of the country.

“If the Hadi Bill is passed, parts of Kelantan’s Syariah Criminal Code II (1993) 2015 [KSCC] and Terengganu’s Syariah Criminal Offences (Hudud and Qisas) Enactment 2002 [TSCOHQE], can be in force. Shariah laws in other states may also be revised to increase the punishments,” he said, referring to the hudud enactments in Kelantan and Terengganu that have yet to be enforced.

Amde pointed out that in both the hudud enactments, Muslims are subjected to whipping of 100 lashes for the offence of extramarital sex (zina), 40 to 80 lashes for the offence of drinking, as well as imprisonment and forfeiture of property for those convicted of heresy.

He told Malay Mail Online that Muslims in Sabah and Sarawak are “different” from those in Malaya, pointing out that he has non-Muslim relatives.

“I see introducing hudud [as] discriminating against Muslims,” he said.

Amde’s petition has 212 signatories at the time of writing.

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