Disagree with public caning? Push for state law changes, says Khalid Samad

Ida Lim
Khalid (centre) said the debate to stop public canings should be done through the state legislative bodies. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 4 ― Those who disagree with state laws enabling public caning of Muslim offenders should push for the laws to be changed in the state legislative assemblies, Parti Amanah Negara communications director Khalid Samad said today.

Asked for Amanah’s stand on the public caning of two alleged lesbians in Terengganu over a Shariah offence on Monday, Khalid noted that laws relating to religion in Malaysia are passed in the individual lawmaking bodies in each state.

He added: “We have to respect the law.”

Khalid said the debate to stop public canings should be done through the state legislative bodies to be brought by state lawmakers.

“I would suggest people who don’t agree with the law, specifically those people in Terengganu, should take it up with their ADUN and ask for move to bring about amendment, for it to be modified so the caning is not being done in public.

“Let the debate carry on in DUN where it should,” he told reporters, referring to state assemblymen and the legislative assemblies respectively.

Khalid noted that he was not part of the debate in the state assembly when the law enabling public canings of the two women was passed, and would not be able to argue for or against the matter without first looking into the history and background of the law.

"If I want to make a comment, I have to do a research on the issue and why the law as is has been passed," he said.

Khalid has been a federal lawmaker via the Shah Alam parliamentary constituency throughout his political career, and has not been a state assemblyman in any state.

The women's rights coalition Joint Action Group for Gender Equality had previously highlighted that there is no consensus nationwide on the range of crimes where caning is prescribed, listing Terengganu, the Federal Territories, Johor, Penang and Sarawak as the only states and areas with caning named as the penalty for same-sex sexual relations under their Syariah Criminal Offences Enactments.

On August 12, the Terengganu’s Shariah court sentenced the two women to a fine of RM3,300 and six strokes of the cane each, after they pleaded guilty to the offence of attempted same-sex sexual relations under Section 30 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Takzir) (Terengganu) Enactment 2001 read together with the enactment's Section 59(1).

The sentence was carried out on the two women, aged 22 and 32, yesterday in front of a Shariah judge and around 100 people ― including public onlookers, government agencies’ representatives, and members of non-governmental organisations.

The public nature of the caning has been criticised, including by Umno's Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin, who said it should not have been done publicly as Islamic teachings are that the dignity of each person should be looked after.

Muslim Lawyers Association deputy president Abdul Rahim Sinwan, who held a watching brief, yesterday told Malay Mail however that there was no intention to humiliate the two women as they were given private access in and out of court to protect their identities, and insisted that Shariah caning is not painful or harsh.

Advocacy groups Justice for Sisters and Sisters in Islam had yesterday jointly questioned if the caning of the women itself had violated the law, as the Prison Act 1995 and Prison Regulations 2000 provides for caning to only be carried out against prisoners while the Terengganu duo were not jailed.

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