PETALING JAYA: A former top finance ministry official has warned Prime Minister Najib Razak against supporting PAS’ proposal to give wider powers to shariah courts in the country, saying it would scare away investors and further devalue the ringgit.
Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, who was previously finance ministry secretary-general and Economic Planning Unit director-general, said any support from Najib would add to the prevalent negative sentiments about the government.
“The ringgit’s value has resulted in higher inflation, pushing up prices of goods and cost of living… it will be our Malay community who will have to bear the brunt,” Sheriff wrote in an open letter to Najib today.
Sheriff, who is also the former managing director of the government’s investment arm Khazanah Nasional, said any support from Putrajaya for PAS’ plan would be interpreted as a ploy to distract the public from economic problems.
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, through a private member’s bill he tabled last year, has been at the forefront of efforts to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965.
The bill, among others, seeks to increase the maximum punishment for shariah offences to 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 lashes of the cane.
The move has drawn protests from both sides of the political divide, including from Barisan Nasional’s non-Muslim leaders, who fear the plan would ultimately allow PAS to implement the Islamic capital punishments, or hudud, in Kelantan.
Najib has in the past defended Hadi’s bill, saying non-Muslims should not be worried as the law was intended for Muslims.
Sheriff’s open letter today comes as PAS is mobilising support for a rally in support of the bill in Kuala Lumpur this weekend.
He said the bill would cause disunity among Malaysians, adding that “the people will be victims only because the leadership is playing politics with religion”.
“With these words, I, as the former chief secretary to the Finance Ministry and the director-general of the Economic Planning Unit would like to advise you to forget about RUU355 because you have to fulfil more important duties,” said Sheriff, referring to the bill’s Malay acronym. -FMT