Whad'ya know? The government is going to take up the bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 originally proposed by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, and table it as its own. Who would have thought a private member's bill - and one initiated by an opposition MP - would come this far?
We heard the news first from Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak himself when he chose to declare it at the annual Umno general assembly last Thursday. It was obviously the most apt occasion for him to make this sudden declaration, because apart from the usual racial and religious ra-ra-ra, the assembly this time focused much on getting the party ready for the next general election (GE14) and consolidating its growing alliance with PAS.
To be sure, Najib's announcement was astonishing, but not really surprising. We could see it coming, couldn't we? Especially when MCA president Liow Tiong Lai, who had strongly opposed the bill when it was first tabled last May, made a questionable turnaround nearly two weeks ago by saying that if the government tabled a similar bill, "I will vote for it".
Did he have foreknowledge of Najib's move?
MIC president S Subramaniam, who originally said his party opposed Hadi's bill because its passing would pave the way for hudud, now welcomes Najib's assurance that the current legal system would not be affected and says the MIC will set up a legal committee to study the bill and its implications.
This current amenable stance is such a change from the one the BN component party leaders took in May, when Subramaniam, Liow, Gerakan president Mah Siew Keong and MCA deputy president Wee Ka Siong even threatened to quit their cabinet posts if the bill should get passed.