Amanah's Bill backs Shariah courts' punishment expansion... but with a twist

Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud (right) during an Amanah press conference in Kuala Lumpur September 6, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud (right) during an Amanah press conference in Kuala Lumpur September 6, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 20 — Parti Amanah Negara's (Amanah) alternative proposal also supports the expansion of the Shariah courts' range of punishments, but is markedly different from PAS's own proposal in Parliament, according to a report.

Amanah's private member's Bill envisions the review of the limits of punishments that the Shariah courts can impose as part of the overall enhancement of the Shariah courts' powers and status, local daily Sin Chew Daily reported.

Sin Chew Daily claimed to have sighted Amanah MP Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud's motion paper on the Bill, details of which are being kept under wraps by the political party until the motion is included in Parliament's Order Paper.

According to the local daily, Amanah is proposing for a special commission — composed of academics, legal experts, professionals, the chief Shariah judges of each state, related government officials — to review the Shariah courts' existing punishments and come up with a proposal to enhance it.

“If any ineffectiveness is discovered, the special commission should propose the enhancement of the related scope, improve preventive measures and achieve the goal of educating and counselling; in proposing the new scope, the conditions in society or the Shariah courts' capabilities have to be considered.

“Besides the three types of punishments under Act 355, the special commission is tasked with examining other punishments that have educational and moral elements for the Shariah courts to use; all proposals have to comply with constitutional requirements to avoid creating a constitutional crisis,” Siti Mariah was quoted saying in her motion paper by Sin Chew Daily.

The Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, also known as Act 355, currently limits the Shariah courts to punishments not exceeding a three-year jail term, whipping of not more than six strokes, or fines of not more than RM5,000.

Amanah's proposal goes beyond merely supporting a review of the Shariah courts' powers to impose punishment, but also reportedly asks for the enhancement of the public and private sector's understanding towards Islamic courts to allow them to play a more effective role.

According to Sin Chew Daily, Amanah's alternative proposal also moots the addition of more officials, as well as greater exposure and more training for Shariah courts' judges and officials to improve the Islamic courts' effectiveness.

Amanah's proposal also recommends a review of the remuneration for Shariah judges and Shariah court officials and a reasonable salary scheme, in order to avoid talent drain and to attract more recruits with potential, the report said.

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang's private members' bill seeks to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, also known as Act 355, to empower Islamic courts to enforce any punishments ― except for the death penalty ― provided in Shariah laws for Islamic offences listed under state jurisdiction in the Federal Constitution.

Hadi's Bill does not stipulate additional requirements such as requiring the enhanced punishments to comply with the Federal Constitution or placing an emphasis on punishments with an educational goal in mind.

Hadi's Bill has also been called the “Hudud Bill” owing to belief that it will pave way for the enforcement of the Islamic penal law in states such as Terengganu and Kelantan where such legislation exist but remain dormant due to constitutional barriers to their implementation.

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