Gov't to study 'apostasy' bill for possible constitutional implications

All possible constitutional implications of the proposed 'apostasy' bill will be studied in depth, de facto law minister Rais Yatim said today.

"When you table a law for enactment, a very thorough approach must be undertaken to ensure that any possible contradiction vis-a-vis the Constitution is taken care of," he said at a press conference after delivering the keynote address at a seminar on "Future of Politics in Malaysia" in Kuala Lumpur.

Rais was commenting on a Sept 16 statement by Parliamentary Secretary in the Prime Minister's Department Noh Omar that the Restoration of Faith Bill would be sent to the Attorney-General's Chambers soon for scrutiny.

Rais, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, added that the controversial bill is still not ready to be tabled to the parliament.

He said that currently there is only one similar legislation, the Aqidah Protection Bill, which was passed in June by the Perlis Legislative Assembly.

Last Monday, a 29-member delegation of concerned citizens sent a petition to Suhakam registering their objection to the proposed Bill which provides power to the authorities to detain Muslims involved in deviant teachings and practices for up to a year at faith rehabilitation centres ([#1] 'Apostasy' Bill contravenes constitution, says group [/#], Sept 25).

The group maintained that the Bill contravened Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution which states that "every person has the right to profess and practise his (or her) religion."

Politics not part of syllabus

Asked about the teacher who allegedly had fielded an essay topic discrediting the government, Rais in turn posed this question: "Is a teacher expected to teach politics in class?

"You show me a syllabus and then I'll give you an answer."

Last week, Deputy Education Minister Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin said that teachers setting political examination questions will be charged under the Sedition Act.

"If a teacher uses political hatred or suggests innuendoes towards hatred, how do you classify the teacher? The teacher should be booked under the sedition law because the law is there," said Rais.

While delivering his keynote speech entitled "The Challenges of Malay Politics in the 21st Century", he said that with the IT revolution and globalisation, the Malay community would experience great change.

"These dynamic developments are expected to dilute the nature of Malayness because whatever that is considered to be 'Malay' is itself being eroded and lost," he said.

He also lamented that the Malay community mixes the issue of religion with politics, which he said weaken its political strength.

"We never see or hear Lim Kit Siang lambasting Ling Liong Sik over issues of religion. Samy Vellu was never at odds with G Pandithan over Hinduism. They have only clashed over politics.

"The Malays are not so. The Malay community is now being split over 'isms' and religious opinions," Rais added.

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