PETALING JAYA: The news about the Kelantan government allowing public caning, has made it to the New York Times with a report about how even the provincial government of Aceh in Indonesia is now reconsidering their current policy of allowing public caning.
In a report yesterday, NYT quoted an Indonesian media interview with the province’s vice-governor Nova Iriansyah, who said that Indonesian president Joko Widodo had met with the newly-inaugurated Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf to discuss ways to improve the province’s international image.
This followed the negative publicity the region and Indonesia received when news of the public caning meted out to two young gay men for having sex with each other hit international headlines.
According to the report, the governor is now considering making such whippings private to avoid negative news media attention and prevent any adverse impact on outside investment.
“We will minimalise press coverage and conduct it inside prisons. Right now it’s in front of the mosque, right after Friday prayers.
“I think the national government is right that we have to do something,” Nova was quoted as saying by NYT.
The governor’s office too, had recently released a statement, following the meeting with Jokowi, as the Indonesian president is more popularly known.
The governor’s office stated the discussions on ending public caning were just of a provisional nature as any decision on the matter still required approval from Muslim scholars and Aceh’s legislature.
Irwandi had been Aceh governor previously, from 2007 to 2012, and was known for his more progressive stand, which conflicted with hardline religious leaders.
According to NYT, he had refused to sign into law a version of shariah that mandated adulterers be stoned to death. This had resulted in Aceh’s shariah department revising the criminal code and sending the Indonesian parliament a new version without the provision on stoning.
Aceh remains one of the country’s poorest provinces. It has received comparatively little investment from even Indonesian conglomerates based in Jakarta.
On May 23, two Indonesian men were caned in front of a jeering crowd as a punishment for gay sex, in a first for the Muslim-majority country where there is mounting hostility towards the small LGBT community.
The pair received 83 strokes of the cane each after being found guilty of breaking sharia rules in conservative Aceh province, the only part of Indonesia that implements Islamic law.
The men, aged 20 and 23, were led onto a raised stage outside a mosque in front of a crowd of thousands, who jeered and booed loudly.
Before the caning, Abdul Gani Isa, a member of the Acehnese clerics’ council, told the crowd the caning was “a lesson for the public. Lessons carried out with our shariah law”, according to a report by AFP.
Getting back to Malaysia, NYT reported how the amendment to the shariah law enactment in Kelantan was denounced by local Muslim NGO Sisters in Islam (SiS), among others.
“The new law was part of a broader national effort by conservative groups to alter Malaysia’s legal code.
“There is a big fundamentalist movement changing the law, not just at the state legislative level, but also at the federal level,” SiS communications officer Alia Affendy told NYT.