To all Honourable Members of Parliament,
Appeal to not support Act 355, to uphold moderation (Wassatiyah) for the good of the economy and the nation
We, G25 Malaysia, respectfully appeal for a pledge from each Honourable Member of Parliament to not support / vote against the PAS’ private motion to amend Act 355, which is due to be tabled in Parliament.
We hope the honourable MPs would ponder upon and note that any amendment to Islamic laws should be done within the framework of the Federal Constitution. Specifically, Article 4 provides that the Constitution is the supreme law of the Federation and any law which is inconsistent with the Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void. This applies to laws passed by the state legislatures, including syariah laws. This ensures the existence of only one system of justice governing all Malaysians.
Limitations on the powers of the Syariah courts
Item 1 of List 11 in the Ninth Schedule namely, the State List of the Federal Constitution states that the Syariah courts 'shall not have jurisdiction in respect of offences except in so far as conferred by federal law'. The purpose of this provision is for Parliament to have oversight and control over offences, including the nature of punishments created by state enactments, so that the state legislatures do not have a free hand to create offences or to prescribe sentences.
Increasing the status of the syariah courts complicates enforcement
The desire to raise the status of the syariah courts to be at par with the civil courts is worrying and very likely will shock our multi-racial community as it will raise questions on the direction of the country’s legal system. A secular system of criminal justice existing side by side with the Islamic system is not only unconstitutional but will cause considerable confusion and uncertainty in the enforcement of law and order.
A big risk with investors
Economists and international experts who have studied Malaysia's remarkable economic development over a relatively short period to become one of the most advanced economies in the developing world, have always cited its system of law and administration as a key factor in attracting foreign and local investors to do business here. It is a system which foreigners are familiar with because it is similar to what they find in their own countries. Their presence is most important for the transfer of knowledge and technology so that Malaysians can benefit by developing our own skills to compete in the world market.
Our country will be taking a big risk with foreign and local investors if we have a system of law which is moving away from its original character to become more religiously oriented and less tolerant of modern lifestyles and values.
A step towards hudud
Supporters of the PAS bill to amend Act 355 insist that there is no intention to introduce hudud. Malaysians find this hard to believe as Kelantan, which is ruled by PAS, has already passed the Syariah Criminal Code II (1993) Enactment 2015, prescribing hudud punishments for zina (illicit sex), murder, theft, robbery, sodomy, consumption of liquor and apostasy. But the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, prevents the Syariah Courts from imposing hudud punishments. Therefore, the Kelantan government needs to appeal to Parliament to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965. This is the first step towards the implementation of hudud.
Prioritising good governance in public institutions
A well governed country with laws and governing institutions that provide social justice for the poor and the needy should be a priority for the country’s social and economic progress. This would be more Islamic than the implementation of hudud. We should be proud that our syariah index is higher than other Muslim countries because our children are better educated; health and medical facilities are available in all corners of the country; unemployment and poverty rates are low; and our youth can look forward to a brighter future.
Higher priority should be given towards improving the standards of governance and to strengthen the institutions of law and order so as to promote integrity and clean administration in the country. These governing qualities are far more important to the country than policing the moral behaviour of Muslims and punishing them like criminals. The personal sins of Muslims do not hurt others in the society or the economy but the corruption and financial mismanagement among politicians and civil servants and the perception that the institutions of justice favour those in power do. These are the social diseases that can cause economies to collapse and the people to rise up against their rulers.
We urge the Government and Members of Parliament not to support the PAS bill and instead devote its energy on dealing with the unresolved problems surrounding 1MDB, so that the country can turn its attention to deal with the bigger issues facing the economy, in particular the weak ringgit and the rising costs of living. We do not need the PAS bill to divide the nation at a time when all races should stand together. The time now is for the real 1Malaysia.
6 March 2017