KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — A total of 30,173, or 70.1 per cent of the 43,030 Malay or Bumiputera voters polled in a recent survey were oblivious of a Bill seeking to allow harsher punishments by Shariah courts, a study revealed today.
In addition, among Malays who said they will vote for Islamist party PAS in the next general elections, more than half, at 54.3 per cent said they didn’t know about the Bill also known by its Malay acronym RUU355.
Of those who knew about the Bill, Invoke Centre for Policy Initiatives (I-CPI) showed that only less than half, or 44.4 per cent, found it to be a “very important” factor in deciding their votes.
“Exactly 3,240 or 25.2 per cent of the 12,857 people who knew about the Bill said answered 'not important' to this question while 30.4 per cent did not answer,” Invoke founder and Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli told a news conference.
Rafizi said the survey randomly contacted 1.1 million Malay voters nationwide between March 16 and yesterday using the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system designed by I-CPI, and received 43,030 responses.
Beside asking respondents if they knew of Bill and its effect on their voting decisions, Rafizi said they were also polled on whether they felt the Bill was more important than economic matters.
“For the last question, 34.9 per cent or 4,484 people who were aware of the Bill and felt it was relevant to their voting decision said RUU355 was more important that issues such as the GST and rising costs,” he said.
Rafizi added there was a 16-per cent overlap in respondents from this study and another conducted earlier this year, which he said allowed the study to segregate respondents by political affiliation.
Upon this refinement, he explained the survey concluded that 54.3 per cent of those categorised as “PAS supporters” said they were unaware of the Bill.
Rafizi called the survey an important indicator of public opinion, particularly among the Malay community, regarding the Bill.
“MPs represent the people and so they must know what the people think about the a certain issue before passing any laws.
“We don't want anyone to feel fanciful about themselves,” he said.
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang's Bill 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.