KUALA LUMPUR, March 27 — PAS-ruled Kelantan’s plans to enforce hudud in the state amounts to a “betrayal” of Sabah’s trust when it agreed to form Malaysia with Malaya and Sarawak, the Sabah Council of Churches said today.
Rev Datuk Jerry Dusing, the council’s president, said that historical documents and declarations showed that Malaysia was intended to be founded as a secular country, when he voiced concern at the plans to implement the religious-based criminal law.
“It was based on such assurances that our forefathers, from both sides of the South China Sea, came together to form this new nation of Malaysia, and thus they form the very foundation of our trust in and bond with our fellow Malaysians.
“Hence, it would be inconsistent, and indeed a betrayal of the trust placed by Sabah’s forefathers in the Federation of Malaysia, for laws such as Kelantan’s Hudud Enactment — which will have a huge impact on the public as well as upon the multi-religious Malaysian society as a whole — to find a place in our Federation, a nation envisaged to be secular at its formation,” he said in a statement today.
The Christian leader cited a list of historical documents, including the Cobbold Commission’s June 21, 1962 Report and the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee’s Memorandum on Malaysia dated February 3, 1962 — with the latter saying that Islam’s position as the religion of the federation would not endanger religious freedom or make Malaysia any less secular.
The Cobbold Commission is also known as the Commission of Enquiry on North Borneo and Sarawak, while the consultative committee led by Mohamed Khir Johari included delegations from Brunei, Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya.
Dusing acknowledged the aspirations of some Muslims to see hudud enforced as part of their divine duty, but he noted the controversial punishments outlined in the Islamic penal code and the possible legal difficulties such as conflict of laws, double jeopardy and qualification of witnesses.
“Although the hudud enactment is presently stated to be only applicable to the Muslims, we feel duty bound to express the deep concerns and anxieties of the Christian community in Sabah, who in recent years have struggled to navigate the ambiguous and uncertain state of the law on religious freedom,” he said, referring to the Kelantan Shariah Criminal Code II Enactment 1993 (Amendment 2015).
He said that the Sabah churches did not intend to be dragged into “political or legal debates” over hudud, instead stressing that Malaysia was formed as a plural society with diverse culture and religious beliefs, as reflected in the diversity in east Malaysia.
All Malaysians are duty-bound to defend the country’s “very foundation” instead of undermining it, Dusing said.
“Therefore, the Sabah Council of Churches urges and calls upon all patriotic Malaysians, irrespective of religious persuasions and including the Kelantan State Government, to honour and defend the original intention of our founding fathers, and to strengthen the foundation of our Federation, and above all to focus and build on what unite us, rather than what divide us,” the Christian leader later added.
On March 19, PAS-ruled Kelantan passed key amendments to its Shariah Criminal Code II 1993 in a move to enable the eventual implementation of hudud in the Malay-majority east coast state.
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang last week served notice to Parliament on another set of amendments in a proposed private member’s bill, this time to Act 355 or the Shariah Court’s (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, which his party wants changed in order to allow Kelantan to carry out hudud.
With DAP and PKR’s rejection, PAS and its 21 MPs in the lower house must rely on all of Umno’s MPs, plus more from other non-Muslim parties, in order to get a simple majority of 112 votes to get the Bill passed.