Putrajaya powerless to stop Shariah caning, law minister says after lesbians whipped

Boo Su-Lyn
Datuk Liew Vui Keong (second from right) is pictured at the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly in Singapore September 4, 2018. — Picture courtesy of Datuk Liew Vui Keong's office

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 4 ― The federal government cannot intervene in Shariah punishments because it would encroach on state jurisdiction that covers Islamic matters, de facto law minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong said today.

Liew noted that the breach of Shariah law by two young women ― who were publicly caned six times in a courtroom in Terengganu yesterday for attempting to have lesbian sex, a violation of the Shariah Criminal Offences Enactment (Takzir) (Terengganu) 2001 ― and their caning punishment were under state jurisdiction.

“Item 1 List II of the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution clearly states that the exercise of state jurisdiction on Islamic matters provided therein is a state matter, therefore, federal government cannot interfere in state jurisdiction,” Liew said in a statement issued from Singapore, where he is attending the 39th Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly.

Liew however said the Terengganu authorities’ actions did not augur well for human rights.

“The state of Terengganu is now under the control of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS). PAS is not part of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government but acts on its own accord,” he said.

PAS wrested Terengganu from Barisan Nasional (BN) in the 2018 election, while retaining Kelantan. Both states do not have a single PH representative.

In addition to being caned, the accused women aged 22 and 32 were also required to pay a fine of RM3,300.

Pahang, under BN control, is now reportedly considering caning under Shariah law against Muslims who engage in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activities after the Terengganu sentence.

Civil society and the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) have criticised the Shariah caning in Terengganu, pointing out that international human rights treaties prohibited torture and “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment”, including corporal punishment.

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