THE passing of the amendments to the Syariah Criminal Code II 1993 (Amendment 2015) by the Kelantan State Legislative Assembly on Thursday was not unexpected. Even the support of the Barisan assemblymen was already a done deal.
The question to ask is: What next?
Will PAS get the necessary amendments passed at the federal level when it brings a Private Members’ Bill before the august house?
And how will the MPs, whatever their party affiliation, cast their votes when this happens?
As can be seen by what happened in Kelantan, on this issue of hudud, the assemblymen from both sides of the divide are united. The fact that all the assemblymen are Muslims also guarantees passage of this Bill.
From a legislative point of view, only the assemblymen in the chamber matter.
Whatever public debate that goes on outside the assembly involving the other parties affiliated either to the Pakatan Rakyat or the Barisan Nasional is totally irrelevant.
It is of course not so easy in the Dewan Rakyat as the Islamist party’s agenda will have to be supported by the other MPs, primarily those who are Muslims.
But neither is it impossible, as a simple majority will suffice to get the federal nod to allow Kelantan to fully implement hudud.
This is what all Malaysians, regardless of political leanings, ethnicity or religion, should be most concerned about.
We need to once again remind ourselves about the fundamental structures that make up this nation, the foresight of the founding fathers, and the reality of Malaysia’s agreed form of governance.
To some, this may not matter. After all, parliamentary democracy is about the forging of political alliances where foes can become friends overnight over a particular issue. And some issues may no longer be considered sacred if the quest for power is paramount.
Be that as it may, this is the time to remind ourselves that the truly honourable politician will always subscribe to higher principles.
Once elected into the august house, he or she has the responsibility towards the nation that goes way beyond constituency or parochial concerns.
Let us be clear that the Malaysian Constitution is the supreme law of the land. And we need to fully understand this charter that has been so carefully drawn up to protect the rights of every citizen.
We are deemed to be equal before the law because we have a common system where federal and state rights are clearly defined.
In the area of criminal legislation, which is what hudud is about, albeit from an Islamic perspective, it has always been, and will always be, the prerogative of the federal authorities.
There cannot be two sets of criminal legislation applying to different citizens based on their faith.
As a federation, we also cannot have a situation where each state wants to have its own system of administration of justice. It is not only unfair but will be most difficult to implement.
The assurance that hudud will only apply to Muslims is nothing but political rhetoric. In reality, once such a dual system exists, there will be total confusion. Any assurance that enforcement will be fair cannot be accepted. Any law, even if is divine-based, will suffer from the frailty of human nature itself.
We have seen, even within the Muslim community itself, that there are different schools of thought from the adherents of the faith themselves, in this country, and all over the Muslim world.
We have seen the many issues that crop up, and will continue to arise because of religion. The diverse nature of our nation makes it even more crucial that we must not allow religion to creep into any part of our governance.
Those who think this is just a minor issue involving a state where the population is almost all Muslim must be aware that once allowed, there is no turning back. It is not just about Kelantan, but about our country.
Our Rukun Negara’s first principle is Belief in God. And we are thankful that we are a God-fearing nation, whatever our faith may be.
As adherents, we all have our own religious rules that help us to live our faith to the fullest. In all faiths, there will be those who are deeply committed to all the religious laws while there will also be those who give scant regard, or even disobey such divine commandments.
But this is within the private realm and we will all have to answer to our Maker one day.
In the public realm, we must safeguard the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and protect it from any intrusion based on religious input. All our MPs, and all our public officials from law enforcers to members of the judiciary, have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution.
Which is why all politicians must think and act as Malaysians, to defend our diverse way of life, our current system of justice, and our commitment to remain a secular nation.
Ever since the Malaysian Parliament came into being, no Private Members’ Bill has ever been passed.
In all countries that practise parliamentary democracy, Private Members’ Bills are meant for the quaint and personal agendas of individual MPs.
Any Bill that threatens the very core of our basic structure, such as this hudud Bill, cannot be tabled in this manner.
Nor can MPs be expected to make a landmark decision, on a simple majority, simply on faith.
Be careful. Be very, very careful. For Malaysia will not be the same anymore if such a Bill goes through. The STAR Home News Opinion The STAR Says 22 Mar 2015