Malaysiakini News

U-turn on Act 355 already predicted

Stephen Ng  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | On Feb 17, I had predicted that there would be a U-turn to the enhancement of punishments under the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355).

I went against popular opinion that amendments to Act 355 would be passed in Parliament in the current parliamentary session.

When I expressed my doubt that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak had any serious intention to push the private member’s bill mooted by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, everyone gave me a hard look in disbelief.

Najib knew well that the hudud equation will not keep him in power. While PAS and Umno can mean something of a threat to Pakatan Harapan in West Malaysia, Najib has forgotten that the Sarawakians in particular and a sizeable majority in Sabah also do not like PAS.

As I said, the Act 355 political game was “nothing but Barisan Nasional’s attempt to split the people over a controversial issue and distract everyone away from the major scandal involving the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, so that it can continue to divide and rule the nation for the next 50 years.”

The main intention was to split the opposition so that PAS will no longer be able to function within the Pakatan Harapan framework. In fact, most of us are happy as Pakatan Harapan now has a better partner in Amanah.

The presence of PAS within Barisan Nasional would almost instantly turn off a lot of non-Muslim voters, because the current leadership line-up is very different from those days when PAS was under more charismatic PAS leaders in the like of Fadzil Noor, Nik Aziz Nik Mat and Mohamad Asri Muda. Read former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s comments here.

What Najib failed to realise

However, in this game of politics, Najib has failed to realise that the Sarawakians and Sabahans have become “disillusioned” because Umno and Barisan Nasional appeared to have given PAS too much face.

A Sarawakian friend who was recently here in Kuala Lumpur told me that this amounts to nothing but deception. “This means that I would not trust Najib in the future,” he pointed out.

Non-Muslim MPs in these two states may not necessarily be unhappy with the way how Najib had played the game, but the ordinary East Malaysians have already seen how their future can be affected when Umno continues to dominate the country’s political arena.

Too much power has been vested in one party for far too long that pride has crept into the hearts of the people in Putrajaya.

Many are beginning to realise that Sarawak as a state, for example, is not insulated from any decision that Umno leaders make at Putrajaya. Supposing that Umno had gone ahead with the amendments to Act 355, Sarawak would also have face the brunt eventually.

Given the current scenario, Umno is the one that dictates, and all others have to toe the line. The Chinese and the Indians in West Malaysia, for example, have long given up on Barisan Nasional because of the frequent labelling of ‘pendatang’ especially during the lead up the 12th general election.

Even the late AdenanSatem was angry with Umno politics during one of his speeches to the Sarawakian Chinese community during Chinese New Year. However, Adenan continued to play along with Umno at the federal level instead of breaking ranks. It is also a little disappointing that the current Chief Minister, Abang Johari Openg, has never said a word about Sarawak’s stance with regard to Umno.

From my observation, the Chinese in East Malaysia are no different. Although the late Adenan was a good chief minister, whatever policy passed at the federal level will eventually affect the East Malaysian Chinese. They cannot continue to claim that ignorance is bliss.

The disappearance of pastor Raymond Koh is something that is already felt by many Sarawakian Christians. Others who have gone missing are one other couple, Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth.

PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail also highlighted the disappearance of a social activist from Perlis, Amri Che Mat, 43, who had also gone missing around November last year.

Sarawakians just have to see what happened to Sabah’s demographic landscape to understand where they, too, could be heading to. In fact, many of our Sarawakians have realised that what happened to Sabah will also be happening in their midst.

The other thing that Najib failed to realise is that he has helped the voters to differentiate between the current PAS composition and what used to be PAS during the 12th and 13th general elections.

People like Mohamad Sabu or Mat Sabu, Khalid Samad, Saari Sungib, Mujahid Yusof Rawa and others have already left PAS after the demise of former PAS spiritual leader Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

What is left are those who are still faithful to Abdul Hadi and other detractors whom I believe will break ranks with Hadi’s team A to further strengthen Amanah. This will render PAS ineffective in the coming general election. Umno will have one less enemy to contend with.

While Najib seemingly played games on his support for Act 355, we were watching how well he had led Hadi to believe that the government is serious about the amendments...

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