The waltz around Hadi’s bill


It is not only the “for” that have been misunderstood. The “against” have also been misrepresented.

Ishmael Lim, Free Malaysia Today

After allowing Hadi Awang’s private member’s bill to leapfrog over the queue of government bills uncharacteristically at the last sitting, Umno is now using its non-Muslim BN partners to push the Act 355 amendment bill back in the box.

Wasn’t it a tad deceitful to toy with this, knowing full well that BN partners would oppose it tooth and nail? This is akin to slicing at both sides. Where was the famous BN consensus when Hadi’s bill was cleared for take off to climb to where it now is?

With Hadi’s bill now vying for the attention of the house, BN leaders have said that clearance to deliver its cargo of shariah amendments will likely be withheld as consensus has been reached that government bills must rank ahead. This would be a triumph if grabbing the spotlight for wobbly logic and political adventurism were measures for success.

This lends credence to some views alleging that the government, in bringing Hadi’s bill to the fore, was trying to divert attention from a major scandal. The recent ruling by the Dewan Rakyat Speaker – that any discussion of the US Department of Justice’s civil suit would be sub judice, seems to be another link in the cordon that surrounds what is most taboo. The honourable Speaker, in his keenness to avoid embarrassing debates, has overstretched any reason or truth.

The parliament of sovereign Malaysia should not have to pay heed to what is or isn’t sub judice to a case being tried in a court outside our territory. Surely, the principle has been distorted by the honourable Speaker. The legal maxim as applied by him does not exist anywhere except in his ruling.

Back to the matter of Hadi’s bill. A clear reading of Act 355 will show that it confers jurisdiction upon the shariah courts in their administration of Islamic Law. It does not stop state legislatures from making Islamic laws but those laws do not carry automatic jurisdiction unless it complies with 355. Thus 355 acts as a speed break which restricts the penalty a shariah court may impose. At present this is limited to a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment, a maximum fine of RM5,000 and whipping up to six strokes, the so-called 3:5:6 rule.

Poor information management

This bill will be put through the procedural mill like any other to decide if the motion to debate it gets approved or rejected. If rejected, then that would be that. But if approved, the bill would then be presented to the house by the minister concerned, to be read and debated on before a vote is taken.

PAS’ poor management of information has been its own greatest enemy. No one from PAS seems able or authorised to speak on the real implications of the bill. We must suppose this is because few have studied the bill in depth or understood its true implications except for a few in a tight elite circle.

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