Kelantan state assembly passes hudud bill amendments

KOTA BHARU: Malaysia’s northeastern state of Kelantan passed amendments to a bill on Thursday (Mar 19) that could see the introduction of an Islamic criminal code in the state.

The Syariah Criminal Code II 1993 outlines punishments ranging in severity according to the crime such as amputations and death by stoning. Islamist party PAS tabled amendments to the bill with full support from the state legislative assembly – including state opposition UMNO.

The bill has not been implemented in Kelantan despite being passed in 1993 due to changes required first to the federal constitution. But the state government plans on pursuing implementation by inserting the amended laws in two private members bills to be tabled in federal Parliament.

But it remains unclear if PAS will get the federal support it needs to implement the bill now. What is clear is that the amendments have jeopardised the future of Malaysia’s most promising opposition force in decades – Pakatan Rakyat.

PAS’s opposition coalition-mates in the Pakatan Rakyat have been at odds with the party over the tabling of these amendments. An outraged Democratic Action Party (DAP) said PAS “stabbed them in the back” and had threatened the future of Pakatan Rakyat, Malaysia’s main opposition coalition.

While PAS has always supported hudud, the DAP has strongly opposed its implementation – arguing that is what the penal code and common laws are for.

“[PAS’s] move is against the common policy framework, it’s against the PR (Pakatan Rakyat) leadership council’s decision,” said DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang.

The DAP will now meet on Monday to decide whether it can continue to work with PAS in a coalition. DAP said the party went against Pakatan Rakyat’s common manifesto by pushing for hudud law, leaving it no choice but to reconsider its ties with the opposition coalition.

PKR ADOPTS CAUTIOUS APPROACH

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), the third party in the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, has taken a more reserved approach. In a carefully worded statement, it condemned PAS for tabling amendments so thick they appear to be reintroducing the 1993 bill – thereby violating Pakatan Rakyat’s common policy framework.

But it stopped short of more drastic action, given the amendments do not mean the bill can or will be implemented. “Of course, We regret that the nitty gritty and adhering to the position taken in 2011 was breached,” said PKR secretary-general Rafizi Ramli.

He added: “But it doesn’t change anything; I don’t think the PKR is going to sit down and discuss whether to escalate this or not.”

PAS hopes its coalition-mates will trust it did what it had to do in a state it has governed for decades. “Let us not go to the extent where Pakatan Rakyat is broken up,” said PAS Central Committee Member Khalid Samad.

That is a sentiment echoed by the opposition coalition’s supporters – many of whom view Pakatan Rakyat as Malaysia’s only hope for a new regime in the nation. But even the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition may suffer from the hudud saga.

The Kelantan branch of BN party UMNO gave PAS its full support when it tabled the amendments to the sharia criminal code. This has prompted calls from within BN party Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) to sever ties with UMNO.

But UMNO MP and Malaysian Communications Minister Shabery Cheek said as Muslims, UMNO does not really have a choice but to support hudud. “It has to be a collective decision eventually but from my point of view, UMNO as a party, based on Malay-Muslim kind of ways, we don’t have much choice,” he said.

Still, Pakatan Rakyat parties believe UMNO Kelantan’s support was a short-lived move – aimed at widening the rift between Pakatan Rakyat parties, given that UMNO had rejected supporting hudud in neighbouring state of Terengganu.

Sources : www.channelnewsasia.com