S'wak BN fears possible 'discrimination' in amended Act 355

(Updated )

Sarawak BN MPs have expressed concerns there may be “discriminatory elements” in the amendments to the Syariah Court’s (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965.

Borneo Post today reported Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg saying this is over different penalties that Muslims and non-Muslims would face respectively.

“What we suggest is to look at it (Act 355) judiciously. We fear there are discriminatory elements,” he said.

Abang Johari said all 25 of the state's BN parliamentarians have met recently to discuss their stand on the amendments, and have expressed concerns about the differences in penalty.

“For example, if I am caught stealing with another friend, he’s a non-Muslim and I am a Muslim.

“The penalty for me could be higher than his penalty in the civil court. But, under Article 8 in the Federal Constitution, everybody is equal under the eyes of the law.

“So, there must be no discriminatory penalty because we are all equal.

“He’s Malaysian and I’m Malaysian, he’s a non-Muslim and I am a Muslim, the penalty must be equal. That’s all,” he was reported saying at a press conference after launching the 1Malaysia Civil Servants Housing Programme at Muara Tuang today.

According to Borneo Post, the chief minister has communicated Sarawak BN’s stand with Prime Minister Najib Razak, and he would leave it to Najib to tackle the matter.

Yesterday Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi confirmed the government will table the bill to amend Act 355 to increase the punishment limits allowable by syariah courts.

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang's Private Member's Bill to amend Act 355 was tabled after Kelantan in 2015 unanimously passed its hudud enactment at the state assembly comprising a majority of PAS and Umno assemblypersons.

“We want to test Muslims so that they understand and support this bill to allow Kelantan to implement hudud,” Hadi was reported as saying in his speech at the Federal Territories PAS convention in Taman Melewar on March 28, 2015.

Despite BN component parties' objections to the bill, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Azalina Othman Said fast-tracked Hadi's motion on his bill in Parliament last May on the instructions of Prime Minister Naijb Abdul Razak and chief whip, Deputy Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Following this, Najib at the last Umno general assembly announced the government's intention to take over the bill.

According to Borneo Post, the bill is expected to be tabled and debated in the current parliamentary sitting, and a vote may be called for it to be passed.

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