KOTA KINABALU, April 2 — Leaders from the country’s non-Islamic faiths heaved a deep sigh of relief after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced that his administration will not adopt a PAS motion to increase the Shariah courts’ punitive powers.

Representatives from the church and gurdwara added that they are less worried that the contentious private member’s Bill filed by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang will be passed in Parliament.

“We cannot stop anyone from tabling it. But as long as the government doesn’t adopt the Bill, they cannot do anything, so we are not so worried anymore. It will remain dead as long as it does not get the government’s backing,” Jagir Singh, vice-president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) told Malay Mail Online when contacted.

Jagir who is also president of the Gurdwara Council of Malaysia said the controversy had been weighing hard on people of different creeds and hoped to see the issue ended.

Critics of the PAS proposal claimed the Bill, dubbed RUU355, would open the door to hudud in the country.

“These few months, we were very worried that the country will take a different course other than our forefathers envisioned. We were afraid that it would cause disunity among Malaysians,” Jagir said.

“We are happy and thankful for the decision that is in line with our constitution. We are founded on the principles that the Constitution is supreme and that we have secular laws. This matter should be put to rest so we can move forward in unity,” he added.

Church leaders Hermen Shastri and Justin Wan expressed similar sentiments when contacted.

Hermen who is general secretary of the Council of Churches Malaysia said the issue had been weighing down on non-Muslims in the country and Malaysians who are committed to living in justice and peace with one another.

“It is hoped that the government will be consistent in its stand and put this matter to rest. As a nation let us move forward into a future where every Malaysian will be treated as equals under the civil laws of our nation,” he said.

However, he said there is always the possibility of pressure within the Umno party to support the expansion of Shariah in the near future.

Wan who is chairman of the Association of churches in Sarawak said he had met had met the prime minister several weeks ago on the issue and was happy to hear the BN will no longer table the Bill.

“We can only pray that it does not get backing from another group now. It is still an issue, but it is up to the government,” said Wan who is also Sarawak Sidang Injil Borneo president.

He also expressed his gratitude to those who had fought against the Bill in the last few months.

“We are also thankful that the state government has always been against it here in Sarawak, and have been speaking out against it in Parliament.

“If it comes up again, I don’t expect much difficulty, we shall approach it in a way for everybody to understand. I’m sure most people understand why we do not want it, even our Muslim brothers, only extremists don’t see it. Most Muslims also realise the impact it’ll have although not all may be vocal,” Wan said.

Hadi’s Bill seeks to raise the Shariah courts’ sentencing limits to 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 strokes of the cane.