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MPs urged to be present and vote against Act 355 if fast-tracked

We, the undersigned civil society organisations warn that if PAS president Hadi Awang’s bill to amend Act 355 is fast-tracked on Thursday and the motion to adopt it is passed, it will be adopted as a government bill as per Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s declaration on March 17.

To prevent this, all Members of Parliament who object to the bill must attend the Parliamentary meeting throughout April 6 (Thursday) to defeat Hadi’s Act 355 if it is fast-tracked again by an Umno minister as had happened twice on May 26 and Nov 24 last year.

The public and the parliamentarians must remember that Act 355 is alive despite BN’s U-turn on tabling it as a government bill. The BN may just fast-track the motion and allow its MPs to vote on it freely. If enough MPs who object to the bill have gone home early, it can be adopted as per Zahid’s declaration. The BN’s reversal on last Wednesday will then be shrewdly reversed.

As this is an ordinary bill, passing the motion will require only a simple majority. In other words, if only 60 MPs stay in the House when the motion to table the bill is put to vote, it can be passed with 31:29.

Hence, any parliamentarian who is absent when the bill is put on vote should be seen as silently supporting the bill, whatever their publicly-declared position is. If the motion is passed and the bill becomes a government bill, all those who are absent should be held responsible alongside those who vote for the motion.

Therefore, even if the MPs have bought their air tickets to return home early, they must stay on until the parliamentary sitting is over. It is their duty to make laws and they cannot find any excuse to abdicate their constitutional duty.

If the bill is adopted as it is, Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act [Act 355] will be amended to expand punishments of Syariah courts to a maximum of 30 years in imprisonment, RM 100,000 in fine and 100 strokes in whipping is still alive. This means religious offences may carry harsher punishments than robbery which is punishable up to 14 years in imprisonment and fine or whipping.

Three hudud punishments already in the syariah criminal laws in Kelantan and Terengganu, 100 strokes for fornication, 80 strokes for unsubstantiated accusation of adultery or sodomy, 40-80 strokes for drinking will be immediately in force. With the only exception of the Malay Rulers, all Muslims including those from East Malaysia will be subjected to such punishments.

As Malaysia was formed in 1963 as a secular federation, such an expansion of Syariah rule will call into question the moral foundation of Malaysia and plant the seed of national disintegration. For Malaysia’s sake, we urge all Parliamentarians to be present and vote against Hadi’s bill if its motion is fast-tracked.

List of signatories

1. Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran)
2. Alumni Association of National Taiwan University, Malaysia
3. Anak Muda Sarawak (AMS)
4. Baramkini
6. Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia foundation (BoPiM)
7. Borneo Resources Institute (BRIMAS)
8. Diversity
9. Engage
10. G25
11. Greenfriends Sabah (GF-Sabah)
12. Centre For Malaysian Chinese Studies (CMCS)
13. Friends of Kota Damansara
14. In Between Cultura
15. Japan Graduates Association, Malaysia (Jagam)
16. 17. Jaringan Tanah Hak Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak (Tahabas)
17. Jihad for Justice
18. Lawyer Kamek for Change (LK4C) [Sarawak]
19. LLG Cultural Development Centre
20. The Federation & Alumni Associations Taiwan University, Malaysia (FAATUM)
21. The Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia Women Division
22. The Federation of Heng Ann Associations
23. The Federation of Hokkien Associations of Malaysia
24. The Federation of Malaysia EngChoon Associations
25. The Federation of Malaysia Lim Associations
26. Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia (JKOASM)
27. Jaringan Orang Asal Se Malaysia (JOAS)
28. The KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
29. Komuniti Muslim Universal (KMU)
30. Malaysia Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST)
31. Malaysian Tamil Writer’s Association
32. National Human Rights Society (Hakam)
33. National Indian Rights Action Team (Niat)
34. National Changhua University of Education (Taiwan) Alumni Association Malaysia
35. Negri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall
36. Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute (OHMSI)
37. Partners of Community Organisations Sabah (PACOS)
38. Pelangi - Campaign for Equality and Human Rights Initiative
39. Peoples Service Organisation
40. Perak Women for Women Society (PWW)
41. Persatuan Alumni Taiwan Selangor & WP
42. Persatuan Bekas Siswazah Universiti dan Kolej di China, Malaysia (LiuHua)
43. Persatuan Anxi Selangor & WP Kuala Lumpur
44. Persatuan Keluarga Ng Teng Chin Malaysia
45. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
46. Persatuan Kwang Tung Rawang
47. Persatuan Kwang Tung Selangor dan Kuala Lumpur
48. Persatuan Wu Malaysia (KL dan Selangor)
49. Pertubuhan Pembangunan Kebajikan Dan Persekitaran Positif Malaysia (SEED)
50. Plusos
51. Projek Dialog
52. Pusat Komas
53. Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa)
54. Sabah Women's Action (Sawo)
55. Sahabat Rakyat
56. Save Rivers
57. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia, SABM
58. Selangor & KL Hokkien Association
59. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
60. Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham)
61. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
62. Tenaganita
63. Tindak Malaysia
64. United Chinese Schools Alumni Associations of Malaysia, UCSAAM
65. United Chinese School Teachers’ Association of Malaysia, UCSTAM
66. We Are Malaysians
67. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)

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