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Scoring political points with hudud

The motion to debate hudud for Selangor has been withdrawn from the State Legislative Assembly but the gamesmanship between PAS and Umno over who is a bigger champion of Islam is likely to grow more intense.

There was relief all round when Barisan Nasional decided to pull back their motion to debate the prospect of hudud in Selangor.

Many Selangoreans were unhappy when Kamarol Zaki Abdul Malim, the Sungai Air Tawar assemblyman, submitted the hudud motion last week and the Chinese vernacular papers, who see themselves as the watchdog of Chinese cultural rights, had been going to town on the issue.

They could see that it was Umno’s way of saying that it is just as Islamic as PAS. It was about Umno testing PAS’ sincerity over the question of hudud – whether the PAS’ push for hudud is about the faith or about holding on to political power in Kelantan.

The Umno contention was that if it is really about the faith, then PAS should not stop at Kelantan and it should also consider implementing hudud in Selangor.

In other words, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Umno was also telling PAS that if it wants Umno’s support in Parliament on the hudud Bill, then it should show support for Umno’s motion on hudud in Selangor.

The opinion among many non-Muslims is that the gamesmanship between PAS and Umno is getting too much and that Islam should not be politicised this way.

But just as many people were upset with Selangor Speaker Hannah Yeoh when she announced that she was allowing the motion.

If she knew that Umno is playing “a game” as it has been called, then why allow it to be played in the House?

It left many wondering if she was also into the gamesmanship thing.

The Speaker’s justification for allowing the motion was that she wants to be fair and that the issue should be discussed in the House rather than have “everybody talking about it outside”.

The “fair” part is good but people will go on talking regardless of whether the motion is on or off. In fact, the debate outside would get even louder if the motion went on in the State Assembly.

The sophisticated Selangoreans could see that she was playing politics like everyone else.

The Speaker is from DAP and the perception was that allowing the motion would allow the DAP assemblymen in the House to voice their opposition, to show that they are against hudud.

She should have put her foot down and nipped the whole in the bud.

State government sources said that Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim had been quite upset about the hudud motion.

Yeoh had apparently not informed his office about the move.

Technically, she is not obliged to inform him but social conventions call for it. It is what is known as a matter of courtesy.

Yeoh is still quite new to the job and, thus far, she is still in the shadow of her predecessor Datuk Teng Chang Khim, who is a seasoned lawyer and assemblyman.

It is no secret that relations between the Speaker and the Mentri Besar’s office have been tense following the Bible seizure issue.

Yeoh, who is a vocal Christian, had blamed Khalid for not pushing the matter whereas Khalid’s office suspected that she instigated several junior assemblymen to criticise the state government on the Bible issue.

Relations between Yeoh and the Mentri Besar’s office plunged further following talk to amend the Standing Orders so that the Mentri Besar or State Exco Member could be referred to the powerful Privileges Committee if they did not answer questions raised in the State Assembly.

State government sources said that despite claiming that she wanted to be neutral and fair, Yeoh had been part of a meeting on the State Assembly sitting where the assemblymen who attended were asked not to allow the hudud motion to be passed and where she allegedly suggested the grounds for rejection.

The sources also indicated that she had made inquiries with the Selangor Palace before deciding to allow the motion to be tabled.

Neither side has really scored any real point on the matter.

But Yeoh, by allowing the motion, may have unwittingly set a precedent for her counterpart in Parliament when PAS tables the Private Members’ Bill later this year.

“DAP may have lost the moral authority to pressure the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat not to allow the motion. She (Yeoh) has opened the gate and the next state to follow will probably be Kedah. I am talking about a domino effect,” said a Penang lawyer who has been following the developments.

The lawyer pointed out that if Yeoh had stopped it in Selangor, she would have set a precedent of sorts in safeguarding the Constitutional rights of Malaysians.

In the meantime, the hudud gamesmanship between PAS and Umno will intensify as each tries to appear holier than the other.   The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own. JOCELINE TAN The STAR Home News Opinion Analysis 14 June 2014

Tags: hudud
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