Malaysian church group says Kelantan hudud law requires constitution rewrite

Civil society groups argue that sharia court would be biased against non-Muslims, women and children
Malaysian church group says Kelantan hudud law requires constitution rewrite

(AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana) 


A Christian fellowship and 33 civil society groups from Sabah and Sarawak said that Malaysia’s Federal Constitution has to be rewritten if Kelantan's hudud enactment is passed by Parliament.

The Kuching Ministers’ Fellowship (KMF), a network of church pastors and leaders in Sarawak, said this was because Kelantan’s hudud law breaches the secular foundation upon which Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak had agreed on in the formation of Malaysia.

“Any fundamental change to this package changes the very basis upon which the Christians in Sarawak also agreed to form Malaysia and it requires a thorough re-negotiation of the Federal Constitution,” said KMF chairman, Daron Tan.

Expressing solidarity with the Sabah Council of Churches over its opposition to the hudud law, Tan said the introduction of the law was “a fundamental breach and deviation from the expressed commitment to complete religious freedom, a key term underpinning the Malaysia Agreement signed in July 1963 between Sarawak, Sabah and Malaya”.

“The original basis upon which these three territories formed secular Malaysia has been broken in a very fundamental way."

“The recently passed Kelantan hudud enactment is in direct contradiction to the aspirations of founding fathers of our nation to keep Malaysia a secular state as evidenced in several historical documents that explicitly state this."

“The criminal justice system remains a federal jurisdiction and is part of the entire constitutional package embodied in the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution."

“Any fundamental change to this package changes the very basis upon which the Christians in Sarawak also agreed to form Malaysia and it requires a thorough re-negotiation of the Federal Constitution,” he said.

Tan urges all “Bible-believing Christians” in Sarawak to stand firm against “any fundamental shift" in the country’s law that will affect them, and said the government must strive to keep Malaysia a secular nation in which all religious faiths can co-exist.

He said lawmakers should not pass any legislation that “changes the foundations laid by our founding fathers”.

Meanwhile, the 33 civil society groups are demanding for a renegotiation of the Constitution if Kelantan is given the power over criminal justice under Article 76A, and said the passing would be a “constitutional coup against the 1963 Malaysia Agreement" if the power is given whether through a government bill or a private member’s bill.

They demanded that the central government, as well as Sabah and Sarawak governments to “prevent a constitutional crisis that erodes the moral basis of Malaysia as a nation”, to convene “a Malaysia Summit” to deliberate on a new constitution where Sabah and Sarawak may have other rights devolved if Kelantan were to have its own criminal justice system.

The NGOs said the summit should be attended by all lawmakers and executive branch at the federal and state levels.

Like KMF, the groups said that in forming Malaysia with Malaya and Singapore in 1963, Sabah and Sarawak signed up for a secular federation, “not a theocratic one where any religious criminal justice system may be in force in any part of the federation”.

“Religious freedom was amongst the top demands of Sabah and Sarawak in the Malaysia negotiations which produced the Inter-Governmental Committee Report and eventually the 1963 Malaysia Agreement.”

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“Sabah and Sarawak would not have been part of Malaysia if sharia criminal law was an item in the negotiation,” they stated.

The groups, among them the Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (Brismas), Damn the Dams and Baramkini from Sarawak; the Archdiocesan Human Development Commission (AHDC) of Kota Kinabalu, Belia Saint Aloysius Limbanak and the Consumer Association and Protection Sabah (CAPS) from Sabah, said any fundamental change to Malaysia's secular justice system requires a thorough renegotiation of the Constitution.

They said Sabahans and Sarawakians were legitimate stakeholders in the Kelantan Sharia Criminal Code II (1993) 2015, for if the enactment comes into force, Sabahans and Sarawakians regardless of faith would lose their right to be heard in a civil court if the crime is committed by a Muslim.

“If they are victims of thefts, robberies, homicides and bodily harms committed by Muslims, their cases would be tried in the sharia court, and not common law court as stipulated under Section 2 of the hudud law."

“Sabahans and Sarawakians will not have full testifying competence in the sharia court if they are non-Muslim, women, under-aged Muslims or Muslims with questionable religious conducts,” they said.

“The first and foremost issue in Kelantan’s claim to enforce sharia criminal law is not democracy, but sovereignty.

“As a sovereign nation, Brunei can enforce sharia criminal law even though it is not a democracy.”

“Even if the code has been democratically deliberated, rather than concealed from prior public scrutiny, Kelantan has no constitutional competence to enforce the code because Kelantan is not a sovereign country like Brunei.”

“Sabah and Sarawak objecting to the code is therefore not infringing Kelantanese’ democratic aspiration,” they added.

The groups added that by skirting the need for a two-third parliamentary majority to amend the Ninth Schedule, a bill under Article 76A undermines the veto potential of the 57 parliamentarians from East Malaysia.

“It will effectively not just write off the status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners of Malaya, but even places Sabah and Sarawak as constitutionally inferior to one of Malaya’s states.”

Original story: Sarawak church group says Kelantan hudud requires constitution rewrite

Source: The Malaysian Insider

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