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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 — A group of activists today announced that they will be organising a counter-rally to oppose Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s private member’s Bill to upgrade the Shariah courts.
The group, calling themselves BEBAS, said it will hold a peaceful rally on February 18 at Padang Merbok, between 3pm and 5pm — the same day PAS intends to hold a rally in support of the Bill.
The gathering, it said, will be called "Malaysians Reject Hadi's Bill".
"Hadi has not provided any justification or rationale whatsoever for his proposed enhanced Shariah punishments of 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 lashes from the current limits of three years’ jail, a RM5,000 fine and six strokes of the rotan.
"We have heard no citation of research studies which attest that harsher punishments lead to deterrence or reduced occurrences of Shariah offences, or convict recidivism in Muslim countries already implementing similar laws," it said in a statement.
The statement was issued by BEBAS members Azrul Mohd Khalib, Azira Aziz and R. Suresh.
The group said Hadi had failed to look at the overall impact the country would have if it was to implement the suggested tweaks in the Shariah laws.
The countries often cited by Hadi as examples of hudud law implementation, it added, were "failed states" and did not practice democracy.
It claimed such countries recorded high unemployment rates, large swathes of the population in hardcore poverty, girls deprived of education, democratic oppression, armed conflict and general disregard for human rights.
"Are these the kind of countries we should be looking up to as role models?" it said.
BEBAS also called on MPs to vote against the Bill when it comes up for debate in the next Parliament sitting.
PAS has announced that it will hold the rally on February 18 at Dataran Merdeka, but DBKL has pre-emptively rejected any use of the square for the purpose.
However, the Islamist party has so far insisted on using Dataran as the venue for the rally.
The rally is aimed at demonstrating public support for Hadi’s private member’s Bill to amend to the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, which will eventually be taken over by the federal government.
The latest version of Hadi’s Bill aims to expand the punishments that Shariah courts can currently mete out from three years’ jail, six strokes of the cane and an RM5,000 fine to 30 years’ imprisonment, 100 strokes, and an RM100,000 fine.