On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

No more pussyfooting around

PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang

PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang is experienced enough to know that the implementation of hudud laws, even in Kelantan, would be ultra vires the Federal Constitution – but the signals have already been sent.

IT’S almost certain that the attempt by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang to push for the implementation of hudud laws in Kelantan, via a private member’s bill, will not see the light of day in the current session of Parliament.

The word in Putrajaya is that Hadi will be told that the Dewan Rakyat is busy with other more urgent matters including several other bills in the current one-month session which ends on April 9.

In short, Hadi’s proposed bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act to synchronise it with the recently passed Syariah Criminal Code II 1993 (Amendment 2015) in Kelantan will not happen.

The statement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on the hudud issue is also long ready. It is understood that he wants to choose the right timing to state his stand.

It is obvious that Barisan Nasional is enjoying the daily mud-slinging between PAS and DAP, with PKR already indicating that it won’t support the PAS attempt.

But one thing is clear in Putrajaya – the implementation of hudud laws, even in Kelantan, would be ultra vires the Federal Constitution. Or, in simple language, it will go against the supreme law of the country.

PAS and the party’s array of lawyers can argue and try to interpret the laws to suit their stand but, in the end, any implementation of hudud would still need an amendment to the Federal Constitution, which requires a two-thirds majority.

Criminal laws are under the sole jurisdiction of the federal authorities. Even the criminal laws under the Kelantan enactment will need some form of enforcement authority and, as it stands, the only authority is the Royal Malaysian Police.

While the state religious authorities are empowered to enforce specific religious matters, they do not have any power with regard to criminal matters.

It is not the job of PAS leaders to play policemen. It is the job of the Royal Malaysian Police headed by Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.

The policemen report to him and not PAS leaders and their state religious authorities, or any self-appointed moral police force.

Kelantan, or any state government for that matter, simply does not have the power or the right to introduce criminal laws. Only Parliament can legislate on such matters, and provide the punishment to go with the offences. That’s what the Penal Code is all about, which is a federal piece of legislation.

What PAS is trying to do, and they know that they cannot do it, is to usurp the power of Parliament.

The Syariah Criminal Code II 1993, which was amended recently, is being revived after 22 years. It has always been there, but the party did not push it at the federal level because it was realistic about its chances of getting enough MPs to support it.

So why the current push? Is it because PAS believes that it now has sufficient clout – together with other Muslim MPs from Umno, and possibly some from PKR – to get the stamp of approval?

Or is it simply because the PAS ulamaks, headed by Hadi, want to make sure that the party president gets re-elected in the coming PAS elections, and in the process strengthen their grip on the Islamist party?

Hadi is experienced enough to know that PAS will never be able to push it through – but the signals have already been sent.

PAS has always been consistent about its hudud and Islamic state ambitions, even if its Pakatan partners, DAP and PKR, seem to want to gloss over this clear fundamental divide. It is also clear that PAS wants to push harder now because of the changing demographics in the country.

The Chinese and Indian population is shrinking and so will its electorate base in the years to come. This is primarily the case in the peninsula. The only bastion against any Islamic agenda seems to be the non-Muslim bumiputra voters in Sabah and Sarawak, with their large number of Christians.

And these two states also control 56 of the 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, so they cannot be ignored.

But over in the peninsula, especially in the Malay heartland, Umno is handling the hudud issue cautiously as PAS campaigns along the line that “Hudud=Islam and Islam=Hudud” in the rural areas.

There is no doubt that the religious and conservative side of Islam is on the move and increasing its influence. And the reality is that only Umno, whether we like it or not, can hold back the push by PAS.

Unfortunately, the Chinese and Indian voters were convinced in the 2013 general elections by DAP that the Barisan Nasional government could be toppled at the federal level. In the process, they happily voted in PAS candidates without thinking of the consequences.

The saddest case was in Temerloh where incumbent MP Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah was voted out and replaced by PAS hardliner Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi. Saifuddin, known for his progressive views, is now an active advocate of moderation.

Now, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng has said that the party wants to sever ties with Hadi, but will keep its relations with PAS within the Pakatan Rakyat. In Sarawak, however, the state DAP has declared that it will not work with PAS any more.

For all that bravado, the reality is that PAS is actually inconsequential in Sarawak. But DAP appears to want to play safe at the national level by going after Hadi personally. But whether DAP wants to work with PAS or not is quite irrelevant, even if Hadi is not party president, because the Islamist party has clearly stated its goals.

Is DAP, again, in the next general election going to tell the Chinese voters to vote for PAS and pretend that all is well and fine? DAP has to make up its mind.

Likewise, the Prime Minister also needs to come out strongly on the issue.

Barisan cannot continue the tactical move of deferring any Private Member’s Bill on hudud at every parliament session. The charade has to stop and the best way is to say clearly that Malaysians will not and cannot accept hudud because it is unconstitutional.

This is a multi-racial and multi-religious country. It is a total fallacy and gross misrepresentation for Hadi and anyone, including some misguided Umno leaders, to believe that hudud laws do not affect non-Muslims. Of course, they will, make no mistake about it.

The implications to non-Muslims are clear enough. If anyone missed out on their possible impact in the original 1993 enactment, the amendments that were recently passed should convince them that there is no way hudud can be exclusively a Muslim issue.

Until now, we have not heard any convincing rebuttals from PAS or their supporters other than to be told to stay out of the debate.

It won’t be just Malaysia watching how we deal with Hadi but also the world. Keep our beloved Malaysia multi-racial, multi­cultural and multi-religious. We will not and must not let PAS dictate how we live our lives.