Sarawakians becoming concerned about Act 355


(Updated )

COMMENT Now, Sarawakians are also becoming concerned about the amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (or Act 355).

Prior to this, I have often asked why Sarawakians are complacent with the peace and harmony that they enjoy, thinking that anything happening in West Malaysia is really unique to West Malaysians.

It looks like now that Sarawakians are awakened to the fact that the federal government under the leadership of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is pushing for the amendments to Act 355.

PKR parliamentarian Rafizi Ramli hit the nail on the head when he said that “the non-Muslim BN parties would be under pressure from their voters if the amendments were tabled by PAS, as the voters would perceive this as a first step towards hudud.”

Let us show the non-Muslim MPs in both East and West Malaysia that we mean business by giving them the boot in the coming general election.

True colours

What is now baffling the Sarawak Ministers’ Fellowship (SMF), for example, is that they have sent letters to all 31 Sarawakian members of Parliament to ask them to state clearly their stand regarding Act 355 which will be tabled soon in Parliament, and only four responded.

The four are Kuching Bandar MP Chong Chieng Jen, Lanang MP Alice Lau, Sibu MP Oscar Ling and Julau MP Joseph Salang Gandum.

“We are unsettled by the deafening silence from the rest of the MPs whom we made contacts with,” said the SMF chairperson, Reverend Daron Tan. The SMF is a coalition of pastors, churches, Christian NGOs and concerned Christians in Sarawak.

“The reason for this was that SMF wanted Sarawakian MPs to be guided by the principles upon which Malaysia was founded in 1963,” he said. “We are keen to maintain the spirit and letter of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and the Federal Constitution that has ensured the prevailing peace and harmony in Sarawak.”

Rev Tan is again quoted in the press statement that “the on-going progressive erosion of religious freedom is like an ever-tightening noose with no sign of letting up.” For once, we are hearing it from a brother in Sarawak.

Citing the Reid Commission, Rev Tan said that for now, both Sarawak BN and opposition MPs “should take a united and common stand against Act 355 to uphold the oath that they took when they entered Parliament, which is to protect, defend and uphold the constitution.”

“The ramifications for non-Muslims,” he added, “are serious, all-pervading and could lead to injustice and breaches of the Federal Constitution and the Malaysia Agreement 1963.”

While Rev Tan said that the SMF wanted the Sarawak state government “to make an unequivocal statement in opposing the bill”, my suggestion is for every Sarawakian to now resolve once and for all who they will vote in the coming general election, after seeing how religion has been used to split the people.

Umno politics may not be able to penetrate into Sarawak but its influence is far-reaching enough that even the rural folk in the interiors are affected by policies decided by the people in the corridor of powers in Putrajaya.

It is my prayer that our Christian brothers and sisters, who make up the majority in the state of Sarawak, will stand up and be counted, especially at a time when the country is nearly split into two over the concern that we are heading towards a hudud system.

Without Sarawakians, any efforts by the opposition to turn this country around would be futile. This is what we saw in the last general election. Although the opposition won the majority of votes, Barisan Nasional was able to form the federal government because the number of MPs from East Malaysia, who themselves may be representing only a small number of voters (compared to the Subang constituency with over 100,000 voters), add to the numbers.

All that those of us in West Malaysia are asking for is to give the opposition two terms at the federal government level to see how they perform. The first term is to allow the opposition to clean up the mess; the second term is for them to bring the country to the next level, in much the same way that Selangor and Penang have seen improvement after Pakatan Rakyat took over these two states since 2008...

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