Work to amend Shariah Bill started in 2004, minister says

BY YISWAREE PALANSAMY
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Religious Affairs, Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said that although underage marriages are disallowed in Islam, there are cases where permission has been obtained from the Shariah Court, for 'permitted reasons and not a blanket approval'. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — The government first began efforts to amend Act 355 or the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 way back in 2004, Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said today.

“With regards to government’s efforts to amend Act 355, actually the suggestion to amend Act 355 started as early as 2004, and the government had put continuous efforts for it,” Jamil Khir said in a parliamentary reply to PAS’ Kubang Kerian MP Ahmd Baihaki Atiqullah.

“Several suggestions for amendments were made and it was also tabled in the 18th Shariah and Civil Law Coordination Meeting in 2008.

“Thereafter, from time to time to date, all efforts are being continuously done to amend Bill 355, to ensure that the amendments are in line with the structure of the Federal Constitution,” he added.

Ahmad Baihaki had asked Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to state his reasons as to why the government itself has not taken any initiative to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 when the motive has already garnered unwavering support from Muslims in Malaysia, including supporters of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang is currently seeking to raise the Shariah courts’ maximum sentencing limits to 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 strokes of the cane. The current limits are three years’ jail, RM5,000 fine and six strokes.

Hadi’s Bill has already appeared in the Dewan Rakyat’s Order Paper in four parliamentary meetings without going through the first reading or being debated, either due to lack of time or Hadi’s own requests twice for deferment.

Hadi’s motion proposing the Bill was seen in the Dewan Rakyat Order Paper last week, which means this is the fifth parliamentary meeting in which it is appearing.

Umno had previously, also extended various support to Hadi in his efforts to increase the punishments available to the Shariah courts, including elevating his motion above government matters and conducting a special briefing by the deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, for all Muslim MPs.