IT was quite a week for lawmakers in the Dewan Rakyat who faced the issue of whether Malaysia is an Islamic or secular nation under the Federal Constitution.
The matter was put in the spotlight rather inconspicuously via a written reply by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom to a written question by Oscar Ling (DAP-Sibu).
The opposition lawmaker had wanted to know if hudud contradicted with the Federal Constitution and was Malaysia a secular or Islamic state.
As is the practice by Opposition lawmakers, Jamil Khir’s brief written reply was distributed to the media on Monday.
The written reply by the minister provided a balanced view of the situation in Malaysia – that Islam is the official religion of the Federation although others are free to profess their own faiths as provided for under Article 3 of the Federal Constitution.
However, confusion arose when reference was made in the written reply that “Malaysia” was not a secular state based on its past as the country was established based on Islamic Malay sultanates where the sultans were the head of Islam in their states.
Ling, however, objected saying that in the formation of Malaysia, it was understood that Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah were not Islamic Malay sultanates.
Ling also moved a motion to cite Jamil Khir to Parliament’s Rights and Privileges Committee for “misleading the House” with his answer but it was rejected by Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia.
The week also saw the ejection of N. Surendran (PKR-Padang Serai) and Fuziah Salleh (PKR-Kuantan) by Pandikar Amin on Monday for refusing to obey House rules.
Surendran had just returned to Parliament after a six-month suspension for disparaging the House and insulting the Speaker.