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Increasing punishment in Act 355 during hard times is a ‘sin’

S.Ramakrishnan, 25/01/17

The Johor state government’s tacit support and approval for the proposed amendment to the Syariah courts (criminal jurisdiction) Act 355 has many wondering if it has the people’s welfare really at heart. The Chairman of the Johor State Religious Committee, Abd Mutalip Abd Rahim, says that Act 355 would not have an influence or affect the non-Muslims and they should not fear the implementation of the Act. The next day he claimed that it is his personal view.
Meanwhile, the MCA has expressed that it has no plan whatsoever to interfere in issues relating to Islam, including the proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355). The other BN component parties like MIC seem ignorant and spineless to express their views.
While the Malaysian government is facing a severe trust deficit, it has given an overt green light to the PAS leadership to propose an amendment to the Act. Malaysia is plagued with an overwhelming debt, corruption in high places, scandals like 1MDB, which has gone round the globe with banks closed and employees charged for money laundering in foreign countries, yet amending the Act takes priority! People across the country are suffering and plagued with increase in cost of living, increase in oil price and GST, all this is not important, apparently. 
Unfortunately, PAS and its head, Hadi Awang, are totally insensitive to the sufferings of poor Malaysians. Instead of working with other political parties to solve these many issues that are bothering Malaysians, the PAS leader is proposing to make amendments to Act 355 that concerns increasing the punishment of sharia offenders.
During this time of economic hardship, PAS and Hadi Awang are focused on increasing the penalties for an offence under this Act from RM5,000 to RM10,0000, from six lashes of the cane to 100 and increasing the current three-year jail term to 30 Years prison. Muslims don’t need these penalties right now, say scholars, Ulamas and legal experts. The public deserves an explanation for the rationale for the proposal to increase punishment from the present limit to the proposed limit in this time of economic hardship.
UMNO and PAS politicians argue that Syariah laws do not affect non-Muslims, but that in itself is a lie.   When the conversion laws were amended in 1988, UMNO politicians promised and comforted the non-Muslims that they will not be affected by this amendment. Since 1988, the numerous custody case battles in the civil and sharia courts reflects the agony and helplessness of the non-Muslim parties in the cases. Interfaith custody battles like M.Indira Ghandhi and S.Deepa are still in our courts. The civil courts are abdicating their jurisdiction when it involves matters with Syariah court jurisdiction. Non-Muslims have no recourse but to suffer in silence. Therefore, Syariah laws, will directly affect non-Muslim too.
PAS and Hadi Awang seem to be disproportionately concerned about increasing penalties for petty crimes but turn the other cheek when it involves corruption among UMNO politicians and high positions civil services. Heavy logging in Kelantan is causing environment damage that are resulting in floods. PAS has admitted that the Kelantan government was inadequately prepared in facing the recent massive flood although the state experienced floods each year. There are serious doubts that Kelantan under PAS has become a bankrupt state.
The amendment to Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355) is a political ploy by UMNO to divert attention from other pressing catastrophes like 1MDB and the geometrical increase in the cost of living. Hadi Awang and PAS have blindly walked into UMNO’s clever ploy to use religion before the next general election. UMNO and the Prime Minister are struggling to manage the corruption and scandalous issues and Act 355 used to swipe other scandals under the carpet. Is not corrupt practice a sin too?    


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