Putrajaya's support for PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang's tabling of a Private Member's Bill in Parliament, to pave the way for the partial implementation of hudud, had rocked the Malaysian political scene yesterday.
PAS said it succeeded in tabling the bill with Umno's cooperation but it came as a surprise as other BN component parties were not consulted.
An upset MCA president Liow Tiong Lai launched a broadside against Umno in the Chinese press and today rallied other BN component parties to his side.
Liow hosted a press conference in Putrajaya today to voice out against the Hudud Bill, together with leaders from MIC, Gerakan and SUPP.
He explained that only four BN parties were represented today as the press conference was hurriedly called but efforts are being made to organise other BN parties against the Hudud Bill.
"This is not only MCA, we are roping in other component parties to stand up (against hudud)," he said.
United Sabah Party deputy president Maximus Ongkili has been contacted and "he is with us", Liow claimed.
In the 10-minute question-and-answer session, Liow was quizzed on Umno's reaction over its component parties' objection to hudud, but he was evasive.
When asked what will MCA do if the bill is supported by certain parties within BN and passed, he simply reiterated that MCA had stated its objection clearly in a cabinet meeting.
Reporter: Did Umno respond as to why it (bill) was not discussed in the cabinet and allowed the bill to be debated?
Liow: We have expressed our stand on this, (we were) upset over the procedure (hudud being prioritised). We think at this juncture, especially when our nation is facing challenges, BN must be united. We will continue with our efforts in ensuring the bill will not be passed.
Reporter: Has (Umno) given any promise?
Liow: We the component parties will make the biggest effort to ensure the BN spirit works.
Reporter: Did Prime Minister (Najib Abdul Razak) respond in the cabinet meeting?
Liow: Indeed, this is a Private Member's Bill… this is not the first time (it being tabled); it has happened a few times before. We insist this bill cannot be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat. We have expressed our view, this is not right.
Liow then turned the gun on the DAP, saying the party was to blame for misleading the Chinese community into supporting PAS.
"Now this tiger (PAS) has grown up and caused great damage (to the people). The DAP owes the people .
"Even when DAP is in Pakatan Harapan, it still (working) in cahoots with PAS," he said.
A joint press statement signed by Liow, MIC president S Subramaniam, Gerakan president Mah Siew Keong and SUPP deputy president Richard Riot was issued today as follows:
We are saddened by the current events where the PAS MP for Marang Abdul Hadi Awang’s Private Member’s Bill was permitted to be tabled for debate by elevating it above government’s matters.
We are also disappointed by the fact that this matter was not discussed within the cabinet or the BN supreme council.
The Private Member’s Bill seeks to primarily remove safeguards which we refer to as the “3-6-5 safeguards” from the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, otherwise known as Act 355.
The “3-6-5 Safeguards” provide that any offence punishable under the Syariah Courts is limited to a term of imprisonment not exceeding three years, or whipping of not more than three strokes, or fine of not more than RM5,000.
This is in the interest of the consistency and uniformity with our laws.
What Hadi’s Private Member’s Bill is attempting to do right now is to dismantle all of these, and the bill in its current form, if passed, is against the spirit of the Federal Constitution.
Article 8 of the Federal Constitution – Equality Before the Law
Article 8(1) of the Federal Constitution provides that “all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”.
A cornerstone of unity and harmony amongst the various ethnic groups and creeds for a country such as Malaysia must be anchored on fairness, equality, consistency and uniformity of laws and this must extend to the enforcement of such laws and the form of punishment.
The punishment and sentencing must also be equal and consistent for all affected persons in Malaysia.
The “3-6-5 Safeguards” is consistent with this equality and consistency and is expressed in the case of Act 355 as placing limits to ensure that all forms of punishment are consistent and uniform i.e. that punishments will not exceed imprisonment of a term of three years, whipping of six strokes or a fine of RM5,000.
If Hadi is successful in removing this “3-6-5 safeguards”, the authorities will be able to enact any form of punishment except the death penalty.
Whilst Hadi has told us that he will not impose the death penalty, he has not told us what he will impose.
From what we know, these are the forms of punishments under hudud – public whipping/ flogging, amputation and possibly long-term imprisonment.
Hadi needs to come clean and be forthright to all Malaysians and fully disclose how he wants to punish Malaysian Muslims.
Our parties cannot support any bill which is vague, uncertain, open-ended and which can lend itself to great inconsistency, injustice and inequality in its application to Malaysians of any community.
We are of the opinion that this is an attempt to circumvent settled constitutional and legal principles by conferring unlimited sentencing powers on the Syariah criminal courts to facilitate the introduction of Islamic criminal law.
This will lead to the duplicity of laws as there will be two sets of laws for the same offences in the country in contravention of Article 8 of the Federal Constitution.
It has also been greatly publicised that this Private Member’s Bill will only affect Muslims in Kelantan and will not be imposed on Muslims elsewhere in Malaysia.
Any bill which seeks to impose an open-ended form of punishment on a select group of Malaysians (in this case, Kelantanese Malaysian Muslims) will be imposing a law unequally to the detriment of Kelantanese Malay Muslims.
This is in contravention of Article 8 of the Federal Constitution which provides that punishment and sentencing must embody some form of equality and consistency (as is now the case with the “3-6-5 safeguards”).
Hadi’s attempt to remove the “3-6-5 Safeguards” is against Article 8 of the Federal Constitution and is thus unconstitutional.