PETALING JAYA: Moderate Malaysians must stand firm against the move to amend the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 as it will alter the secular nature of Malaysia, said a member of the G25 eminent Malays’ group.
Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin (pic) said it was vital to uphold Malaysia’s secular Constitution, which is the social contract agreed upon by the country’s founding fathers.
Negotiated among members of the Alliance, Sultans and the British, she said, it was never intended to be an Islamic Constitution.
“It was intended to be a secular Constitution and Malaysia was intended to be a secular country,” Noor Farida said in an interview with Mariam Mokhtar, the columnist of an online news portal.
In a video clip of the interview uploaded on Mariam’s website (mariammokhtar.com), Noor Farida said that while Article 3 of the Constitution states that Islam is the religion of the federation, it also states that other religions may be practised in peace in every part of the federation.
“Malaysians must stand firm against the enactment of this Bill because once it is passed it is going to alter the secular nature of our Constitution and the secular nature of our country.
“It is vitally important for us to preserve and uphold our secular Constitution.”
Supporters of the Private Member’s Bill to amend the Act, often referred to as RUU355, proposed by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, say the Bill has nothing to do with hudud, but Noor Farida argues otherwise.
She said the Bill seeks to raise the punishments Syariah courts can mete out – up to 30 years’ imprisonment, up to a RM100,000 fine and up to 100 strokes of the rotan.
At present, the penalties under Syariah are limited to a maximum of three years’ jail, a RM5,000 fine and six strokes of the rotan.
The increased penalties, she said, were being sought for what were essentially personal sins – the offences cover fornication, gambling, drinking alcohol and khalwat (close proximity).
“Do these kinds of offences warrant such heavy punishments?
“The principle of proportionality is central to the criminal justice system, so this is preposterous.
“What opponents (of the Bill) are saying is that this is a back door way of imposing hudud.”
On the implications of the Bill on Sabah and Sarawak if it were passed, Noor Farida said leaders from both states who signed the points of agreement which made the formation of the Malaysian federation possible never intended for theirs to become “Islamic states”.
“In fact, the first point in both the 18-point agreement for Sarawak and 20-point agreement for Sabah states that although we recognise Islam is the religion of the federation, in Sabah and Sarawak there will be no official religion and people will be free to choose their own,” said Noor Farida.
She said the G25 has issued a statement giving reasons why the people of Sabah and Sarawak should reject Abdul Hadi’s Bill.
“You cannot change our Constitution or our Malaysia agreement because these treaties make up the social contract of Malaysia.
“After 54 many years, we cannot suddenly change the terms of the marriage by stealth.”
Noor Farida said it was misleading for PAS to argue that the amendment will not affect the people of Sabah and Sarawak.
“There are thousands of people from Sabah and Sarawak, who make peninsular Malaysia their home. If the Bill becomes law, they will be governed by that law.”