KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 15 ― The Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) today warned MPs against Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s Private Member’s Bill that is intended to empower Shariah Courts, saying that a vote for the Bill will “radically” rewrite the Federal Constitution.
In an open letter just two days before the upcoming parliamentary session, CCM secretary-general Reverend Dr Hermen Shastri urged MPs not to look at the Bill lightly and instead view it with “great concern and alarm”.
“Lawmakers must not treat Hadi’s attempt to alter our country’s justice system set in place by our founding fathers and consistently sustained for over 55 years lightly.
“Hadi’s Bill is not just about upgrading the power of the Shariah Courts, it is rewriting the constitution in a radical way,” he said in his letter.
Shastri pointed out that Shariah Courts were established and regulated by state laws, and that their powers and offences were defined by the Federal Constitution.
He added that the ramification to widen Islamic laws was not only limited to those who are Muslims, but was also a matter of concern in allowing future state laws to be altered by federal powers.
“Once we lose the balance between Syariah and Civil Courts as set forth in our Federal Constitution, it is going to lead to a dangerous path of conflicting jurisdictions; forms of punishment not acceptable in modern societies; and erosion against the liberal secular status of the Constitution and its impact especially on the states of Sabah and Sarawak,” Shastri said.
Shastri said he hoped lawmakers will make the right decision and safeguard the country’s democratic ideals.
“We appeal to the head of political parties not to impose the party Whip on MPs so each can vote according to his/ her conscience on this matter,” he added.
Hadi’s Bill on enhancing the powers of the Shariah Court is listed in the Order Paper for the next Parliament meeting beginning Monday.
Hadi’s Bill has also been called the “Hudud Bill” owing to belief that it will pave way for the enforcement of the Islamic penal law in states such as Terengganu and Kelantan, where such legislation exist but remain dormant due to constitutional barriers to their implementation.
The law is to empower Islamic courts to enforce punishments ― except for the death penalty ― provided in Shariah laws for Islamic offences listed under state jurisdiction in the Federal Constitution.
Shariah court punishments are currently limited to jail terms not exceeding three years, whipping of not more than six strokes, or fines of not more than RM5,000.