ANALYSIS There has been much debate since PAS announced it will take it upon itself to table a Private Member’s Bill to seek for the implementation of hudud law in Islamic party-ruled Kelantan.
This follows de facto Religious Affairs Minister Jamil Khir Baharom’s suggestion that it was up to non-government members of parliament to table a bill on the matter.
But what is a Private Member’s Bill?
From earlier experience, it is almost impossible for non-government parliamentarians to table a Private Member’s Bill in the August House.
Opposition MPs had previously attempted to table Private Member’s Bills in Parliament. They included PKR’s Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and Subang MP Sivarasa Rasiah and PSM’s Sungai Siput MP Dr D Jeyakumar.
But none of these attempts were successful.
Jeyakumar told Malaysiakini that under Malaysia’s parliamentary system, a parliamentarian who wishes to table a Private Member’s Bill would need to file a notice with the Parliament secretariat three weeks before the sitting.
“In that notice, you must have a full copy of the bill in two languages - Bahasa Malaysia and English - and also a description of the bill to explain why is it important.
“If the Parliament secretariat accepts the notice, it would be put on the agenda of the Dewan, which is commonly known as an Order Paper.”
Ball is in government’s court
However, even if it is included in the Order Paper, the Private Member’s Bill would need to wait until Parliament finishes the debate of government affairs on that particular day.
This, Jeyakumar ( right ) explained, means a Private Member’s Bill can only be tabled in the House with the nod of the government.
“In Parliament, the actual government business is handled by Shahidan Kassim, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.
“Shahidan will have to tell Parliament that the government gives way to the Private Member’s Bill, only then the MP can table the bill in the House,” he said.
Jeyakumar had tried to table a Private Member’s Bill entitled the Social Inclusion Act in February this year. But the bill was rejected by the Parliament secretariat without even getting into the Order Paper.
Executive director of PKR-linked think-tank Political Studies for Change (KPRU) Ong Ooi Heng wrote in Oriental Daily early this week said that should PAS draft a Private Member’s Bill on hudud, it would not stand a chance for it to be debate in Parliament.
The matter hinged on whether the government would accept it as it had routinely rejected such bills in the past. Attempts to contact Shahidan for comment have been unsuccessful.
However in a move to pave way for the bill, the federal government and the Kelantan state government had yesterday agreed to form a technical committee on the implementation of hudud in Malaysia following a two-hour meeting between both sides.
The state assemblies of Kelantan and Terengganu had passed a state enactment to implement hudud in 1993 and 2003 respectively under PAS rule.
However, the two states were not able to implement hudud due to the federal government blocking the move. PAS is now attempting to overcome the federal government’s resistance by going through Parliament.
Damage done even if bill fails
Since the formation of Pakatan in 2008, the issue has emerged off and on a few times. But this is a first time PAS has came up with concrete action.
While PAS opined that this can help the party to combat Umno’s propaganda that PAS is controlled by DAP, it also reflects the Islamic party’s trepidation in winning Malay support after losing seats in the 2013 general election.
PAS argues that the issue could backfire against Umno with its move. Its information chief Mahfuz Omar ( left ) yesterday challenged Umno to table the hudud bill itself if Umno is not a “sissy” (pondan) political party.
By all accounts, the hudud Private Member’s Bill has a slim chance to get passed in Parliament. Indeed, it looks more like a political gambit by the two rival parties.
However, DAP national organising secretary Anthony Loke said with the media playing up the issue every day, it may change the perception of non-Muslims and erode their support for Pakatan.
“You and I know that it is impossible to pass a Private Member’s Bill. But the ordinary people do not understand the legislative process.
“And why does PAS want to table the bill? They should throw it back to Umno,” said Loke.
Jeyakumar agreed that the issue will severely damage Pakatan even if the bill fails to get passed.
“Once they table it, the damage to Pakatan would be quite severe. BN will use it to panic the non-Malays and break up Pakatan.”