“Now, 32 years have passed and there is a need to increase the penalties. It has nothing to do with what is in the civil courts or about non-Muslims”
(The Star) – The Private Member’s Bill to amend the Syariah courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 will not touch on matters involving non-Muslims or the civil courts, assured a minister.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said the Bill would not introduce new laws or punishment but merely increase the current penalties.
He said when the Act was first introduced, the fine was only RM1,000 and six months jail without whipping.
However, in 1984, the Act was amended to include whipping and the fine was increased from RM1,000 to RM5,000 and the jail term from six months to three years, said Jamil Khir, who is in charge of Islamic affairs.
“Now, 32 years have passed and there is a need to increase the penalties. It has nothing to do with what is in the civil courts or about non-Muslims,” he said.
Jamil Khir was talking to reporters after the closed door briefing for Muslim lawmakers in Parliament on the Bill brought by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.
In a press conference earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said both Muslim and non-Muslim lawmakers would be roped into a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) set up to discuss, explain and provide input into the proposed amendments provided by the Bill.
The committee, he added, would “look into, scrutinise and harmonise” on several matters touching on the separation of powers between the Syariah courts and the civil courts.
Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is the Barisan Nasional chief whip, said the proposal to set up the committee would first be brought to the Prime Minister and then, to the Cabinet for approval.
“We are gathering the feedback from the lawmakers because there were various interpretations on the Private Members’ Bill brought by Marang MP (Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang) when the matter was finally brought to the Parliament,” he said.
Abdul Hadi had first tabled the Bill in May but asked for this to be deferred to this meeting.
Dr Ahmad Zahid said the amendments under the Bill were specifically enacted for Muslims and stressed that there were no provisions allowing for the powers of the civil courts to be taken over and implemented in the Syariah courts.
“The Bill is only aimed at strengthening the position of the Syariah courts,” he said.
Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is also Umno vice-president, hoped that with the setting up of the PSC, it would dispel any misconception of the non-Muslim lawmakers.
“These include lawmakers from Barisan or the Opposition. So, both sides can debate and properly understand the matter,” he said.