OPEN LETTER FROM COUNCIL OF CHURCHES MALAYSIA TO ALL MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT
To: The Honorable Members of Parliament of all Political Parties
Dear Yang Berhormat,
Greetings and peace to you!
I am writing to you at the request of the Heads of Churches of Malaysia, as you prepare for the coming Parliamentary session which will commence from 17th October.
YB Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang of Parti Islam Se Malaysia (PAS) appears determined to introduce a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament to amend the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355). It appears that the Bill is intended to allow the Syariah Courts to impose the Hudud category of punishments by removing the present limitations on the civil courts’ sentencing powers.
As Members of Parliament you have been elected and entrusted by the people to uphold the integrity of the Federal Constitution and to represent the interests of the people in defending and protecting the fundamental rights and liberties as enshrined in the Constitution.
We appeal to the head of political parties not to impose the party Whip on MPs so each can vote according to his/her conscience on this matter .
Syariah Courts are set up and regulated by state laws, and their powers and the offences they prescribed are defined by the Federal Constitution.
Federal lawmakers must not treat Hadi’s attempt to alter our country’s justice system set in place by our founding fathers and consistently sustained for over fifty-five years, lightly. They should view it with great concern, even alarm.
YB Hadi’s Bill is not just about upgrading the power of the Syariah Courts, it is rewriting the Constitution in a radical way.
Our Federal Constitution have carefully demarcated the boundaries of law making authority and power between Federal and State. YB Hadi ‘s attempt to introduce and widen the ambit of Islamic laws ramifications not only to persons professing the Islamic faith but will give rise to concerns that State laws may now be passed which enter into spheres and jurisdictions which rightfully belong to Federal and Not the State. Although clothed as a Parliamentary Bill its targeted in its substance to enlarge the State jurisdiction to enter into State sovereignty .
When Federation of Malaya was formed the Rulers were also concerned that each of the Rulers remains the Head of Islam in their respective States and HRH were concern that there be no usurpation to their authority. YB Hadi may with consent of HRH Sultan of Kelantan promote laws within his own State within the State list but in so introducing this as a Federal Bill YB Hadi has crossed the boundary of his authority. The State lists which sets out what may be passed as Islamic enactments are also clear that the sphere which religious laws operate are primarily in personal and family laws. Penal laws are strictly the purview of Federal. There are clear Court decisions from our judiciary that have emphasized this .
Once we lose the balance between Syariah and Civil Courts as set forth in our Federal Constitution, it is going to lead to a dangerous path of conflicting jurisdictions; forms of punishment not acceptable in modern societies; and erosion against the liberal secular status of the Constitution and its impact especially on the states of Sabah and Sarawak.
The churches throughout the country, will join other peace-loving and loyal Malaysian, to keep you in our prayers as you take the right, and courageous stand to vote against the Bill.
The Churches, the other religious communities in the country, and the people who entrusted you to represent the highest ideals of freedom, justice and peace, founded in our Federal Constitution, will trust that you will do the right thing to safeguard the democracy that shapes the life of our nation.
We leave you with a Bible passage:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
May God lead us and your goodselves through this trying period with His love and grace and that you will do what is just and fair for all.