KUALA LUMPUR, March 26 – It is not surprising that many Malays are unaware of a proposed Bill to allow Shariah courts mete out harsher punishments, political observers said.
In fact, they pointed out that many Malaysians were ignorant of most Bills tabled in the Parliament, and therefore this Bill, also known by its Malay acronym RUU355, was not an exception.
“It is a [very] sad state that many are unaware of laws that are tabled in the Parliament,” Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) political science Associate Professor Datuk Mohammad Agus Yusoff told Malay Mail Online.
Invoke Centre for Policy Initiatives (I-CPI) revealed on Thursday that 30,173, or 70.1 per cent of the 43,030 Malay or Bumiputera voters polled, were oblivious of the Bill to be tabled by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.
It further pointed that 16-per cent overlap in respondents from this study and another conducted earlier this year, which allowed the study to segregate respondents by political affiliation, showed that 54.3 per cent of them were categorised as “PAS supporters.”
Despite that, Agus said respondents contacted by I-CPI might have been able to answer questions regarding the Bill if it was referred to as “hudud,” despite PAS and Umno leaders’ insistence that it has nothing to do with the controversial Islamic penal law.
“Most rural Malays won’t know what RUU355 is all about, unless you tell them it has something to do with PAS and hudud because the party has initiated that law in Kelantan,” he said.
In 2015, Kelantan passed amendments to the State’s Criminal Code 1993, thus approving hudud in the state. The law, however, cannot be fully implemented without the federal government passing RUU355 in Parliament and amending the Federal Constitution.
Faisal Hazis, associate professor at UKM’s Institute of Malaysian and International Studies, meanwhile admitted that PAS was fully to blame if the Islamist party could not get the message about the Bill across, even to its supporters.
“Not many are aware of laws being tabled in Parliament... like the GST, until today people are still learning about it,” he said, referring to the Goods and Services Tax.
“The knowledge of people on matters as such are quite low in this country,” Faisal added.
Penang-based Ooi Kok Hin also concurred with the two analysts on I-CPI’s study, saying that many Malays not knowing about PAS’ Bill was a norm and “happens” with other Bills.
“Many citizens are also unaware of the details of our national laws,” he said when contacted.
PAS vice-president Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah earlier told Malay Mail Online public consent and understanding are not needed to pass RUU355.
The Kelantan deputy mentri besar also dismissed the public poll, saying that the people will only understand the Bill after it is passed.
Hadi aims to raise the ceiling on Shariah punishments from three years’ imprisonment, six strokes of the cane and an RM5,000 fine to 30 years’ imprisonment, 100 strokes, and an RM100,000 fine.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi reportedly announced that Barisan Nasional will table amendments to the same Act directly.