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Act 355 motion: Former MP tells deputy minister not to pass the buck

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Former parliamentarian N Surendran has said that the government should not pass the buck to Dewan Rakyat speaker on deciding whether the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) (Amendment) 2016 bill or RUU 355 should be prioritised for debate in Parliament.

In a statement, Surendren took to task Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Fuziah Salleh for her statement in which she stated the Pakatan Harapan government will not intervene in the matter, citing separation of powers.

Instead, she had said that the decision on assigning priority on which motions to be tabled and discussed fell within the jurisdiction of the Dewan Rakyat speaker.

"This is entirely wrong. I am surprised that this deputy minister in the PM's department can make such a wrong statement.

"It is, in fact, the government which effectively decides which motions or bills are to be debated, and not the speaker. This is by virtue of standing order 15(1), which states that government business takes precedence over private members’ business

"In short, the decision whether to debate (PAS president) Hadi's RUU 355 motion, cannot be passed on to the speaker," the former Padang Serai MP said in a statement today.

Even if Fuziah misunderstands the application of the concept of separation of powers, Surendran said the government was under no obligation to bring up the motion as it should prioritise more pressing laws and amendments instead.

"However, RUU 355 is a blatantly unconstitutional bill, and the government is under no obligation to sacrifice legislative time to debate such a bill.

"Legislative time must be used for the benefit of the people; there are many pressing laws and amendments to laws that must be passed to implement the reform agenda voted for by Malaysians in GE14," he said. Surendran is also legal advisor to NGO Lawyers for Liberty,

RUU 355 refers to proposed amendments by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang via his private member's bill, in which he is seeking greater jurisdiction for syariah courts to mete out punishments.

The bill seeks to increase the sentencing limits for syariah courts to a maximum RM100,000 fine, maximum 30-year jail sentence and 100 lashes, up from the present maximum RM5,000 fine, maximum three years’ jail sentence and six lashes.

It has so far been tabled three times in Parliament but was never debated.

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