Umno looks set to be the winner in hudud bill controversy


Cindi Loo, The Ant Daily

The furore over the possible tabling of two private member’s bills by PAS in Parliament to pave the way for implementation of hudud law in Kelantan is heating up politics on both sides of the political divide.

It is threatening to drive politicians into taking a religious stand instead of a Malaysian one.

Parties whose majority members are non-Malay and non-Muslim, like MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and Liberal Democrat Party and DAP had issued stern statements on their refusal to budge from the issue, insisting that Malaysia is a country formed on the backbone of the Federal Constitution and practises civil laws.

Arguably, Umno holds the upperhand on this issue with 88 MPs, and going by recent statements it would seem that the party is going to throw its weight behind PAS’ proposal out of obligation to Islam.

However, Umno looks set to be the biggest gainer regardless of whether the hudud bill sees the daylight in Parliament.

Political analyst Prof James Chin said Umno would be using this situation to embarrass the Pakatan Rakyat coalition for being unable to take a similar stand on this matter.

“I don’t believe that Umno wants to really go for the hudud bill, as it is not in their favour to alienate the non-Muslim voters and be painted as a race-centric party, but they probably can use this to turn the Pakatan coalition parties against each other,” he told theantdaily.

He said since Pakatan was not an official coalition in Parliament, it does not have a whip to compel the parties to vote only to support the bills they have tabled.

“Pakatan lawmakers have always voted in Parliament using their conscience after meetings, whether to agree or disagree with the bill to be tabled, so the three parties will form their own blocs in Parliament.

“On the other hand, BN being an official coalition would have a proper chief whip to ensure all the parties vote along the same line when it comes to passing a certain bill to be adopted as a legislative document,” he said.

However, four BN component parties — MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and LDP — have voiced their disapproval, and Chin said “Umno is unlikely to compel them to vote for the bill”.

“There had been times when BN component parties are allowed to exercise their votes according to their conscience but only on minor bills. Major bills like monetary bills are usually voted along the same line.

“If Umno gives them the freedom to vote, it cannot fulfil the two-thirds majority needed to see the bill adopted. Then they can blame PAS for not being able to deliver what they have promised,” he said.

Umno’s 88 MPs and PAS’ 21 MPs combined only add up to 109, which falls short of the 148 needed to see the bill be adopted.

PKR has yet to take a stand, with the party’s de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim saying the decision would only be made after consultation with PAS.

In addition, Chin said the existing dual court system, whereby the lower civil courts and syariah courts complement each other “is enough for any ruling coalition to get by in running the country to handle Muslim and non-Muslim matters”.

PAS is in a deadlock with DAP and other non-Malay political parties over its insistence to table the private member’s bills by June’s parliament session.