Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang tables his private member’s bill to amend Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, or known as Act 355, in Parliament. Pix by Mohamad Shahril Badri Saali

Pas president faces opposition from DAP and PKR members of parliament

IT took Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang three tries to finally table his private member’s bill to amend Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, or known as Act 355, in Parliament.

Hadi seeks to increase the current “imprisonment of not more than three years or fine of not more than RM5,000, or not more than six lashes” in Section 2 of the act to “jail term of not more than 30 years or a fine of not more than RM100,000 or 100 lashes as administered in line with the syariah crimes”.

Act 355, if amended, would only set the punishment limit for takzir offences syariah courts can mete out. It is, however, up to the individual states to amend their respective Islamic state laws, according to limits defined by the amendments. On April 5, Hadi’s bill was item number 13. Parliament ended at 5am on April 6 the next day, a sitting that lasted a staggering 19 hours. The Dewan Rakyat reconvened just five hours after that on Thursday. It was the final day, and Hadi’s bill had been listed as the first item on the Order Paper.

After question and answer time, Hadi was invited to table his bill. Opposition lawmakers however interjected, in attempts to prevent him from moving the motion, for a good 37 minutes. They included DAP’s Lim Kit Siang, Gobind Singh Deo and PKR’s Gooi Hsiao Leung.

Gobind (DAP—Puchong) raised the issue of sub judice, citing an ongoing legal action by moderate figure Mohamed Tawfik Ismail, who had sued Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia and the Dewan Rakyat secretary over their decision to accept Hadi’s bill into the Order Paper. Pandikar then explained that the legal rule of sub judice could not stand in the way of legislation in Parliament, adding that the separation of powers was very clear.

Dr Lee Boon Chye (PKR—Gopeng), had asked Pandikar why the four remaining bills that were not debated on Wednesday were not given priority. He had claimed that the Dewan Rakyat had postponed four bills before Hadi’s bill, thus “giving way” for it to be tabled.

To this, Pandikar said he had received an executive order to settle all government bills on April 5, and that it was up to the speaker to determine the course of the sitting, based on Standing Order 15(2). Standing Order 15(2) states that government business shall be set down in such order as the government thinks fit.

Hadi, in his opening remarks, reiterated that the amendments would only be applicable to Muslims, not non-Muslims.

“History has proven that since Act 355 was passed 52 years ago, no non-Muslim has been prosecuted. I wish to urge the non-Muslim YBs to not be worried of the implications. No non-Muslim will be prosecuted,” he said.

He explained the reasoning behind the amendments, saying that the power of the Syariah Court using Act 355 was still low, compared with the authority of a Class One magistrate’s court, and was also left far behind compared with the civil court.

In their speeches, both Hadi and Pas secretary-general Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan had made it clear that Act 355 was not about introducing hudud — a fact many still did not understand.

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