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ADUN SPEAKS Many individuals and organisations have expressed objections to the PAS president’s Private Member’s Bill to amend the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction Act) 1965, which was listed to be read in Parliament this week.

The question that needs to be asked is why Umno is so amenable to this Private Member’s Bill that it gets a high ranking on the list of bills to be read. It looks like Umno has a common agenda with PAS, notwithstanding having been labelled as ‘kafir’ by PAS in the past.

Nobody needs to be a genius to know that this is all for political expediency; the need to hold on to Malay support in the heartland.

People have begun to realise that this bill will affect everyone, not just the Muslims as those proponents of the bill claim. This is no different to the ban on the ‘Allah’ word, which the government claimed would not affect Sarawakians and Sabahans. If this motion is passed, it will set in motion a movement to slowly, and perhaps insidiously, expand the implementation of hudud - the Islamic penal system - in Malaysia.

The supremacy of secular law under Article 142 of the Federal Constitution in Malaysia has been upheld in the landmark case of Che Omar bin Che Soh vs PP by the Supreme Court. In that case, the court rejected the argument that the death penalty for drug trafficking was unconstitutional for offending the principles of Islam.

The Lord President held that Article 3, which recognises Islam as the official religion of the federation, was never meant to extend the application of syariah to the sphere of public law.

We should not forget that one of the preambles in the Proclamation of Malaysia, declared by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, is ‘...whereas there has been promulgated a Constitution for Malaysia, which shall be the supreme law therein...’.

The supremacy of the Federal Constitution is clearly spelt out in Article 4. This was the social contract to which our forefathers agreed and we must not allow it to be rewritten to dramatically alter the landscape of this country of which we are a part.

The issue of conversion

In all matters of upholding our rights, and not just this hudud bill, we must be consistent. One crucial related matter is the issue of conversion. Regrettably, religious conviction has been politicised in this country for so long that people accept it as the norm. Religion has been legislated and policed in this country so much that the notion of religious freedom has become illusory for many.

All the hurdles put in the way of Malaysians who wish to exercise their right to their choice of religion by way of requirements for consent, counselling, attending courses are unconstitutional as they contravene Article 11 of the Federal Constitution. Given the refusal of closed-minded groups to accept this right, or even to discuss the matter, it is not surprising that opponents of the hudud bill, such as Siti Kassim, had to resort to gestures to voice their opinions.

Would it be too much to hope that, should the matter come up for vote, the MPs will vote according to their conscience and not sacrifice justice and fairness for political expediency?

BARU BIAN is the state assemblyperson for Ba’ Kelalan and Sarawak PKR chairperson.

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