State PKR leader Baru Bian said the latest rationalisations of Umno's decision to “take over” PAS chief Hadi Awang’s bill to further empower Shariah courts places Sarawak BN parties on the horns of a painful dilemma.
“By virtually saying that the government in taking over the bill, this will render BN component parties’ opposition to it uncalled for and places the Sarawak BN in particular in a position of damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” observed Baru, a human rights lawyer who heads Sarawak PKR.
The Ba’ Kelalan state assembly rep said Sarawak BN, headed by Chief Minister Adenan Satem, has been explicit and unwavering in their opposition to Hadi’s bill which is scheduled to come up for a second reading at the next session of Parliament in March.
This move is expected to be taken over by Minister in charge of Religious Affairs in the PM’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom, now that the Umno chief has told the party’s recent annual assembly that Hadi’s bill will be appropriated by Umno.
“Can BN component parties, particularly the ones in Sarawak, vote against the bill if their dominant political partner takes things over and pushes for its adoption?” queried Baru.
“On the other hand, can the component parties drop their long-settled objections revolving around the bill’s unconstitutionality and pretend that just because the federal government says the bill is not about hudud, so it is not so?” Baru queried further.
He said the people of Sarawak, non-Muslims and Muslims alike, are opposed to the bill on the grounds of its unconstitutionality.
“Sarawak BN has pledged to defend the people’s rights as set out in the 1963 Malaysia Agreement in which there is no reference to Islam being the state religion,” noted Baru.
“So any acquiescence to a measure to further empower Shariah courts would fly in the face of the safeguards in the Malaysia Agreement as to the state religion of Sarawak,” opined Baru.
He said in the event of Sarawak BN truckling up to federal BN’s making Hadi’s bill their own, it cannot go back to the state’s voters and maintain it has defended their rights.
“Maintaining their opposition to the bill or relenting to it will have repercussions for Sarawak BN vis-a-vis Umno and the people,” argued Baru.
“Sarawak BN is in a dilemma of federal Umno’s making out of which there is only one way - a stance of principle based on the bill’s unconstitutionality,” he asserted.
Baru held that Sarawak BN, which wants to see the 1976 constitutional amendment that reduced the territories of Sarawak and Sabah to states within the Malaysian federation rescinded, would cut the ground from under its feet if it relented in its opposition to Act 355.
“That 1976 amendment was unconstitutional and now Act 355 is similarly a breach of the constitution,” said Baru.
“Sarawakians cannot ask for the one to be rescinded while helping to promulgate the other. We have to be consistent and principled,” he said.- Mkini