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Friday, March 31, 2017

Don: Act 355 U-turn likely part of the game plan



The government's decision not to table the planned amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, or Act 355, was likely part of the plan since the beginning, said political analyst Maszlee Malik.
The assistant professor at International Islamic University said it would have only been a surprise if the government had gone ahead to table it.
He said this was because BN component parties, particularly those from East Malaysia, had been opposed to the amendments from the onset.
"We knew that it was not going to happen. It now goes back to PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang as a Private Member's Bill.
"The announcement wasn't a surprise. It would have only been a surprise if BN agreed to it. What happened was part of the plan," he told Malaysiakini.
He said it will now be up to Abdul Hadi to lobby Dewan Rakyat speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia to allow the proposed amendments in the form of a Private Member's Bill, to go to the floor.
A Private Member's Bill usually would not see the light of day in the House as government bills take precedence over them.
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak on Thursday announced that the government decided not to table the proposed amendments as there was no consensus in BN.
He added that it was up to Pandikar to decide on what to do with PAS' bid to push for the amendments on their own.
However, Maszlee pointed out that while Najib may have publicly passed the ball to Pandikar, the prime minister can still influence the speaker.
"Pandikar's powers are subject to the prime minister's instructions," he said.
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki yesterday said that the government refusing to table the amendments doesn't mean that their MPs would vote against it if it went to the floor.
Win-win for BN, PAS
Meanwhile, a member on the government-PAS joint technical committee on hudud Shamrahayu Abdul Aziz also concurred that it was not the end for the proposed amendments.
"The proposed amendments go back to the Marang MP (Abdul Hadi).
"The prime minister did not say the government wouldn't support it, he just said it would be up to the House (speaker) to decide," he said.
Meanwhile, political and social sciences professor Ahmad Atory Hussain, who was attached with Universiti Sains Malaysia, believed that both Umno and PAS could benefit from the compromise.
"It is a win-win (situation)," he said.
PAS' proposed amendments had divided the opposition, with those in support seeing it as a religious obligation while those opposing it cited constitutional grounds.
Najib has capitalised on this with overtures on supporting the amendments, but the double-edged sword has also divided the BN component parties, prompting East Malaysian parties to speak up more vocally.
The proposed amendment was initially an initiative by PAS following the passing of Kelantan's hudud enactment in 2015.
In May last year, Parliament was caught by surprise when the government allowed PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang's motion to table a Private Member's Bill to amend Act 355.
However, Hadi chose to postpone the motion, citing the need to give time to other MPs to study the proposed amendment.
The original amendment sought to grant the syariah courts more powers to mete out punishments without limits, with the exception of the death sentence.
After negotiations between PAS and the Umno-led government, Hadi agreed to amend the proposal.
It would instead increase the punishment limit that the syariah courts can mete out from three years’ imprisonment, RM5,000 fine and six strokes of the rotan to 30 years’ imprisonment, RM100,000 fine and 100 strokes of the rotan.

Hadi subsequently tabled the amended motion in Parliament in November but he again postponed the debate, citing the need to give time to MPs to examine the changes made.
Najib at the Umno general assembly last November announced the government would take over Hadi’s bill.
On March 18 Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi confirmed this for the present parliamentary sitting, before the decision was retracted at the eleventh hour.- Mkini

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