By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani
March 19 2015
Kelantan's Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) government yesterday tabled a hudud Bill in the state legislative assembly with the support of Prime Minister Najib Razak's United Malays National Party (Umno) party in a step that will likely infuriate PAS' fellow opposition members.
The move risks splitting Malaysia's already fragile three-party opposition coalition, with Anwar Ibrahim's People's Justice Party (PKR) and the secular Democratic Action Party (DAP) against the enforcement of Hudud.
Hudud is a set of laws and punishments set out in the Quran that could allow for flogging and amputation, among other forms of punishment. The PAS Bill sets out amendments to the Shariah Criminal Code Enactment II 1993.
Kelantan opposition chief Md Alwi Che Ahmad told the state assembly that it was the obligation of Umno as a Malay-Muslim party to support the PAS government's plans to implement Hudud in the east coast state.
"I support Hudud because of Allah. Umno also supports Hudud because of Allah and because of politics," Md Alwi said in an emotional address to the state assembly.
Earlier, Kelantan chief minister Ahmad Yakob told the assembly that the new laws would be only applicable to all Muslims of sound mind and who have attained puberty and thereby deemed to be able to discern right from wrong.
"This law is certain to bring equal justice for all as it is a law designed by Allah the Great and Wise. Those who accused the law as inhumane are liars and such accusations are made by those immoral," he said.
DAP said Hudud defies the Federal Constitution and it will continue to reject Hudud as it is impractical and against the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition coalition's common policy framework.
DAP national political education director Liew Chin Tong said the amendment would create a wedge in PR and, if unresolved, could lead to a new anti-Umno coalition in the future.
The Bill stipulates six offences that are punishable under Hudud. One of the offences is falsely accusing others of unlawful relations. Before a charge of illicit sex can be upheld, there must now be four witnesses to an act. This offence is punishable by 100 lashes.
Sodomy or anal sex is an offence not only between men or between a man and a woman out of wedlock, but also between husbands and wives in the absence of consent.
A wife may now lodge a police report against the husband for forcing anal sex on her. The offence is punishable by 100 lashes if the person is unmarried, and death by stoning if married.
Apostasy is considered a crime and could be punishable by death. Other offences that are punishable under the Hudud law are theft (amputation of one hand), robbery (amputation of one hand and one foot), and consumption of liquor or intoxicants (80 lashes).
PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub defended the amendments and stressed it was the right of the Kelantanese people.
The Bill is likely to pass the assembly because PAS has a majority in the chamber. However, Hudud cannot be implemented as the Federal Constitution bars overlapping criminal codes, and a constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds majority in Parliament - which Umno and PAS together cannot muster.
However, there have been suggestions that a legal carve-out could be implemented requiring a simple majority in Parliament.
Najib, a self-described moderate, has been dogged by criticism inside his party since the ruling coalition's 2013 electoral setback and has tried to bolster support with concessions to conservatives and stressing Umno's role as protector of Islam.
"The danger is some people looking at Islam as being the same to Malay-ness or Malay rights," Reuters quoted Ibrahim Suffian, director of Merdeka Centre, an independent pollster, as saying.
A reluctance to criticise has allowed the political influence of Islam to grow. "We see politicians treading on egg shells with the religious authorities," Reuters quoted law professor Azmi Sharom as saying.