KUALA LUMPUR: Proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 will not be tabled in this Parliamentary meeting, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (pix).
He said that the Private Member’s Bill brought by Marang MP Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang would merely be read out a second time this week to include several tweaks to the bill that he read out for the first time in the previous sitting.
The amendments would not be tabled or debated in this meeting, he clarified.
Following a briefing for Muslim lawmakers on Tuesday, Dr Ahmad Zahid said that as the Barisan Nasional chief Whip, he would be bringing a proposal to Cabinet to set up a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to study the proposed amendments, commonly known as RUU355.
“I will take this matter to Cabinet, and propose a PSC that will involve Muslim and non-Muslim MPs in studying complicated matters on the proposed amendments, especially those related to the separation of powers between the civil and Syariah courts,” he told reporters after chairing the briefing.
The closed-door briefing was given by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom
Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is Bagan Datoh MP, said the PSC would be responsible for explaining that the amendments to empower the Syariah courts would only apply to Muslims.
He said the bill would not disturb the powers of the civil courts or infringe upon the rights of non-Muslims.
“There are no provisions in the proposed amendments which would see matters under the civil courts’ jurisdiction being taken over by the Syariah courts,” he explained.
Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister, said that the Government respected the sensitivities of all communities and did not want to politicise the issue further.
“I am also certain it is not the intention of the Marang MP to muddle the situation concerning the various religions in the country,” he added.
The Bill brought by Hadi, who is PAS president, seeks to increase the power of the Syariah courts to impose stiffer penalties for offences, excluding the death penalty.However, Barisan Nasional component parties and other Opposition parties have expressed objections to the Bill over fears that the amendments would eventually pave the way for the Syariah courts to implement hudud in Kelantan.