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Monday, June 6, 2016

Sarawak Speaker: Hadi’s Bill is unconstitutional, should be rejected

KUCHING - Sarawak state legislative assembly Speaker Datuk Amar Asfia Awang Nasar said today that if he were the Dewan Rakyat Speaker, he would have dismissed PAS’s Shariah courts’ empowerment Bill on grounds that it “flagrantly” violates the Federal Constitution.

Asfia said PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s private member’s Bill to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, in seeking to increase the Shariah courts’ punitive power, was discriminatory towards Muslims and breached Article 8 of the Federal Constitution on equality before the law.

“Therefore, this amendment need not be debated (in Parliament) because it is unconstitutional,” he told reporters after attending the Barisan Nasional (BN) pre-council meeting here.

He said if he were the Dewan Rakyat Speaker, he would have “no second thought” about rejecting Hadi’s Bill as he knows constitutional law.

Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia approved last month Umno minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said’s motion to expedite Hadi’s Bill to be debated after the government Bills, saying he was using his “wisdom” as Speaker to allow a Bill that “would never see the light of day”. Hadi, however, requested to defer debate to the next Parliament meeting in October.

Asfia described today as discriminatory Clause 2 of the Bill that seeks to expand Shariah law at the state level over criminal matters that will be applicable only to Muslims. Crime is currently under federal jurisdiction.

“What this amendment means is this — in a joint robbery by six persons consisting of three Muslims and three non-Muslims, and upon conviction, the three Muslims will lose their limbs and the three non-Muslims will just go to jail,” he said.

“That means it is discrimination to the Muslims because for the same offence, the Muslims have their limbs amputated and the non-Muslims go to jail. This is unequal treatment before the law on grounds of religion,” added Asfia, who was a senior practising lawyer before he was appointed Speaker of the Sarawak state assembly.

He also said the proposed amendment does not specify Kelantan as the state to implement hudud law but “at state level”, which means it is applicable in any state in Malaysia.

He said Sarawakians do not want the proposed amendment to be extended to the state as it will cause chaos.

Asfia expressed fears that if the proposed amendment were to be allowed and passed in Parliament, there was nothing to prevent further amendments to Section 2 of the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act to include non-Muslims in future.

“All someone has to do is to introduce a private member’s Bill by way of a motion to further amend this section to cover the non-Muslims as well, then you have problem here,” he said.

Hadi’s Bill seeks to empower Shariah courts to enforce punishments ― except for the death penalty ― provided in Shariah laws for Islamic offences listed under state jurisdiction in the Federal Constitution, but the nature of the punishments is not specified.

Shariah court punishments are currently limited to jail terms not exceeding three years, or whipping of not more than six strokes, or fines of not more than RM5,000.

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