On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

It will be a helluva ride!

Expect 2017 to be a busy year as the general election might be held. Also, Hadi’s Bill will come up again, we will celebrate our 60th birthday, and host the SEA Games.

FASTEN your seat belts. Get ready for a roller coaster ride. A political roller coaster that is, as 2017 is set to be a super eventful year.

With the general election speculated to be held this year – most popularly thought to be in September, as of now at least – the competing political parties are set to kick off their campaigns over the coming months.

And whether we like it or not, everything will be political. The new year will start off with a bang all right.

Even the first quarter of 2017 is set to be a hot period.

The proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 – commonly known as RUU355 in its Bahasa Malaysia abbreviation – is still unresolved and it’s expected to crop up again when Parliament reconvenes in March.

The Private Member’s Bill, tabled by Marang MP Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, was read out a second time last November to include several tweaks to the Bill that the PAS president read out for the first time the previous meeting.

It is set to be a contentious issue that has rattled Barisan Nasional component parties, with Umno seeing the Bill as merely a way to enhance punishments under Syariah laws while many other Barisan component parties see it as a back-door effort to implement hudud laws.

Many non-Muslim Barisan leaders are also asking why they should be supporting a Bill initiated by an opposition party.

The Government has said that the Cabinet will set up a Parliamentary Select Committee that will involve Muslim and non-Muslim MPs to study the complicated matters in the proposed amendments, especially those related to the separation of powers between the civil and Syariah courts.

But Abdul Hadi is not sitting idly by. He has served notice that the Islamist party will hold a “monster” rally to garner support for the Bill.

“God willing, PAS will organise a himpunan aman raksasa (peaceful monster gathering) representing Muslims from various political parties and NGOs, including those who supported the Bill. Wait and see,” he told a press conference at Parliament lobby here.

Although the date has yet to be confirmed, Abdul Hadi said it could be held before the new Parliament session kicks off in March.

The PAS president also reportedly likened the non-Muslim MPs to Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok, for openly criticising the Bill which governs the lives of Muslims. Ahok is currently on trial for allegedly insulting the Quran.

“Unfortunately, the amendment has shown how non-Muslim politicians try to interfere in matters pertaining to the Muslims and the Rulers,” he said.

In Jakarta, following the mammoth protest by Islamist groups, a huge gathering to promote diversity and tolerance was held to counter the earlier gathering.

It will also be a busy year for Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng as his trial over his two corruption charges involving his RM2.8mil double-storey house along Jalan Pinhorn in Penang starts in March.

High Court judge Hadhariah Syed Ismail has fixed the hearing for both cases to start from March 27 to 31, April 10 to 14, April 24 to 28, May 15 to 19, May 29 to June 2, June 13 to 16 and July 17 to 21.

The prosecution and defence teams have been ordered to submit all relevant documents for the cases by Jan 6.

Malaysia is celebrating its 60th National Day on Aug 31 this year and we can be sure that the Government will use the occasion to pump up patriotic sentiments ahead of the polls.

The country will host the SEA Games in August where certainly, the cheers for Malaysia will be the loudest.

It is a whole month of celebrations, with plenty of feel-good factors being pushed into the air, as we enter into September for the Malaysia Day celebrations.

As the region focuses its eyes on Malaysia, Line 2 of the MRT project would have started following the completion of the 51km Sungai Buloh-Kajang line in December 2016.

It will be an impressive sight as modern transportation in the Greater Klang Valley begins operations and this will surely be a pride of Malaysia.

The country’s biggest convention and exhibition centre at Mitec at KL Metropolis at Jalan Haji Sultan Ahmad Shah in Kuala Lumpur will also open this year.

Bigger than the Putra World Trade Centre, the site will be used for the SEA Games – this is certainly set to be a new icon for our Kuala Lumpur.

An impressive line-up of international events have already been planned for 2017 even before the official opening of this complex – which is shaped like the rubber seed, which has benefitted Malaysia tremendously.

By then, the Election Commission’s re-delineation exercise – which critics of the government claimed was a gerrymandering exercise to benefit the ruling party – would have been completed.

If no polls are called by then, the GE will most probably be held in 2018, as it will be too near the monsoon season.

Do expect 2017 to be a busy year as the political players will swing into action early. Political twists and turns will be aplenty and these can be expected ahead of the polls. Make sure your belts are tied – expect the unexpected.

You can’t say you have not been warned.