KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 – Hudud will cause confusion and injustice to the people even if federal legislators made amendments to the laws to implement the Islamic penal code in Kelantan, former attorney-general Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman said. He said as Malaysia was a multiracial and multi-religious country, a parallel criminal justice system was not practical. “I hope our legislators in Parliament will look into this matter in the right perspective and not be blinded by politics,” he told The Malaysian Insider. He said this in response to Kelantan assembly passing of the Shariah Criminal Code (11) 1993 (Amendment 2015) Bill on Thursday.
All 44 assemblymen voted in favour of the bill and its easy passage was expected as PAS enjoyed a two-thirds majority in the state legislative assembly and furthermore, the Sultan of Kelantan, Sultan Muhammad V, had also voiced his support for the implementation of hudud in the state. The assemblymen, comprising 31 from PAS, 12 from Umno and one from PKR, only took two days to debate the bill, indicating that even the state’s Umno-led opposition was willing to give the state government the space and opportunity to implement hudud.
The Kelantan government had said hudud would not affect non-Muslims. The Islamist party is now preparing a private member’s bill to make changes to the Shariah Courts Act (Criminal Jurisdiction) 1965, which will pave the way for the implementation of hudud in Kelantan. Talib, who was the attorney-general between 1980 and 1993, said one must acknowledge that Muslims and non-Muslims could not be separated in the administration of justice. “The reality is that the implementation of hudud in Kelantan will result in confusion and injustice to parties,” he said.
Talib asked what would happen if a crime was jointly committed by Muslims and non-Muslims and the witness was a non-Muslim. He said the Muslims who were charged in the Shariah court would escape punishment as the non-Muslim witness cannot testify in the religious court. Talib, however, said the non-Muslim accused could be charged and convicted for the crime in the civil court as non-Muslims could testify there. He said prosecutors had to confront with numerous other scenarios in dealing with victims, accused persons and witnesses who could be either Muslims or non-Muslims.
“All this has to be considered carefully before implementing hudud, which has been approved by the Kelantan legislative assembly.” He said the framers of the Federal Constitution had drafted the supreme law of the land to ensure fairness and justice. “This can be seen in Article 8 which guarantees equality before the law and equal protection of the law.” Talib said although Islam was the religion of the federation as stated in Article 3 (1), it must be given a restrictive meaning. “Article 3(4) goes on to state that nothing in this article derogates from any other provision of the constitution.”
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang is seeking to table a private member’s bill in Parliament during the current meeting ending on April 9 to enable Kelantan to enforce hudud laws in the state, despite opposition from allies PKR and DAP. The bill is to amend the Shariah Courts Act (Criminal Jurisdiction) 1965, which limits the power of the Shariah courts to a maximum penalty of RM3,000 in fine, five years jail and six strokes of the rotan. An amendment is required in this law to enable Kelantan to carry out hudud law, after the state assembly passed the Shariah Criminal Code II Enactment 1993 (Amendment 2015).
However, PKR and DAP have said hudud laws were not part of the PR pact’s common stand and have spoken out against the bill. DAP will meet today to review its ties with PR, after having been “stabbed” by PAS when Kelantan tabled and passed amendments.PKR on Saturday had announced the party would not support PAS’s hudud bill should it table it in Parliament, saying the Islamist party acted unilaterally in the matter and had gone against the Pakatan Rakyat leadership council’s decision.
The party added that it also opposed the bill due to the principles of Fiqh Al-Awlawiyyat (understanding priorities), Maslahat Ummah (public interests) and the Maqasid Syariah (higher objectives of Shariah). Meanwhile, MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said most ministers were against Kelantan’s hudud law as it was unconstitutional, Sin Chew Daily quoted him as saying. Liow, who is transport minister, said at the Cabinet meeting on Friday, most of the ministers present were of the opinion that PAS’s push for hudud was an attempt to turn Malaysia into a theocratic state.
He said the Cabinet was very concerned and wanted to handle the “PAS conspiracy” carefully. “The Cabinet emphasised that the hudud bill tabled by the Kelantan government is not according to the spirit of the country’s constitution,” Liow was quoted as saying. He reportedly reiterated MCA’s stand against hudud during the meeting, and had urged his colleagues in the Cabinet to uphold the constitution. The Chinese-language daily also reported that 13 component parties in BN were drafting a joint statement to declare their opposition towards implementing hudud in the country. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has yet to announce Barisan Nasional’s official stand but is expected to do so today or tomorrow.