PETALING JAYA: Prominent leaders in Sabah and Sarawak have refuted claims that amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, or RUU355, will not affect non-Malays and Muslims in the two states.
Writing in an open letter, they urged the people to preserve the country as a secular state and to reject Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s Private Member’s Bill to amend RUU355.
The letter, signed by 20 leaders including politicians, former civil servants and the G25 group of eminent Malays, was made available in four languages – English, Malay, Kadazandusun and Iban.
Malaysia, they said, was founded together with Sabah and Sarawak as a secular federation, in which Islam as the “religion of the federation” only played a ceremonial role.
“Lest we forget, religious freedom was stressed and assured in the merger negotiations of Malaysia. Hudud punishments were never placed on the agenda.
“Had hudud punishments been on the cards, the Malaysia project would have likely been rejected by the peoples of Sabah and Sarawak,” they added.
Introducing hudud, they warned, would breach both the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and the Federal Constitution.
Disputing claims that the Bill had nothing to do with the introduction of hudud, they said if passed, it would immediately enable the punishment of 40 to 100 strokes of the rotan for illicit sex, unsubstantiated accusations of adultery or sodomy and alcohol consumption in Kelantan and Terengganu.
The new punishments proposed by Abdul Hadi – 30 years in prison, a RM100,000 fine and 100 strokes of the rotan – would give the Syariah Court similar criminal jurisdiction to the Sessions Court, they pointed out.
“When a severe crime like robbery can only be punished by the Sessions Court with a maximum term of 14 years and a fine or whipping, what religious offences committed by Muslims should be slapped with 30 years of imprisonment, a RM100,000 fine and 100 strokes of the whip?
“Together with the disproportionality of the offences and punishments, the introduction of these three hudud punishments (in Kelantan and Terengganu) will qualitatively alter the secular nature of the legal system,” they said.
Sabahan and Sarawakian Muslims working and living in Peninsular Malaysia would also be subjected to hudud, they added.
“The only parties exempted from Syariah laws are the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Malay Rulers by way of the Special Court under Article 182, not Muslims from Sabah and Sarawak,” they said.
Instead of obsessing over maximising punishments, efforts to advance Syariah should instead be focused on the attainment of maqasid syariah (objectives of Islamic principles), said the leaders.
“For Malaysia’s sake and to preserve our country as a secular federation, we must say no to Bill 355,” they said.
Among the signatories were former Sabah state secretary and Suhakam vice-chairman Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, former deputy director of Yayasan Sabah and G25 member Datuk Dr Johan Arriffin A. Samad, as well as former Sabah assistant minister of finance and Upko secretary-general Datuk Donald Peter Mojuntin.
It was also endorsed by former Sarawak state secretary Tan Sri Hamid Bugo, former mayor of Kuching North Datuk Yusoff Haniff and G25.