After top court ruling, Pakatan urges Sarawak to amend state laws for clear guide on apostasy

Sarawak Pakatan Harapan leaders (from left) Baru Bian, Chong Chieng Jen and Fidzuan Zaidi said clear guidelines should be provided for those who wish to leave Islam. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
Sarawak Pakatan Harapan leaders (from left) Baru Bian, Chong Chieng Jen and Fidzuan Zaidi said clear guidelines should be provided for those who wish to leave Islam. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, March 2 — The Sarawak government should amend state laws to ensure there are very clear guidelines provided for those who wish to leave Islam, Pakatan Harapan (PH) said today.

The state Opposition pact said the standard operating procedures (SOPs) needed to be clear so would-be apostates can get the necessary Letter of Release that will allow them to be officially recognised as no longer being Muslims.

“The Standard Operating Procedures are urgently needed so that those who want to convert out of Islam are clear on what needs to be done,” PH said in a joint statement read out by Sarawak Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) chairman Fidzuan Zaidi at a news conference here.

It said the procedures must be clearly set out for those who have evidential documents to prove that they are no longer practising Muslims and for those who have the intention of leaving the Islamic faith.

“There must also be clear guidelines for lawyers who will be allowed to appear in the Shariah Court as we can foresee that many Shariah lawyers will be reluctant to take the apostasy cases for fear of being branded as memurtadkan Melayu,” Fidzuan added.

The statement was signed by Fidzuan, Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen and Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian.

PH said that the authorities must consider allowing non-Muslim lawyers to appear in the Shariah Courts after the Federal Court had made a decision that the Sarawak Shariah Court has the power to hear apostasy cases.

“What is needed is for the Sarawak Islamic Religious Department to come up with the very clear guidelines and requirements,” PH said.

It said cases of those who want to leave Islam comprise mainly converts who embraced Islam for marriage purposes, when one of the spouses is a Muslim, adding that over time, they opted to leave the faith after they divorce or after the death of the Muslim spouses.

“It must be made clear that getting the Letter of Release is a legal issue rather that a notion of religious conflict and hatred,” PH said, adding it believes in the concept of respect and that Malaysians should live in harmony, despite of their diverse religious affiliations.

PH also defended Baru, a lawyer who had represented the four persons at the Federal Court hearing earlier this week who applied to convert out of Islam.

“He was merely helping the four in his capacity as an advocate to exercise their rights to choose their own religion.

“From the facts of the cases, it is clear that he had nothing to do with their decisions to leave the Islamic faith and those who accused him of having a Christian agenda are making up lies for their own purpose,” PH said, adding that it condemns those who are politicising Baru’s role in these four cases.

The four persons are Malay-born Sharifah Nooraffyzza binti Wan Hosen and Muslim converts Jenny Peter alias Nur Mudzdhalifah Abdullah, Mohd Syafiq Abdullah alias Tiong Choo Ting and Selina Jau alias Selina Jau Abdullah.

Baru, who is also Ba’Kelalan state lawmaker, told reporters that he will be more careful when moving around in future after a Facebook account holder issued a shoot order threat against him.

He said this is the first time that he has received a death threat for representing his clients in court, adding that he was never threatened with death even in native customary rights land cases in courts against plantation companies.

“Issuing a death threat is a very serious matter and we don’t take it lightly. So I do really hope that the authorities will take actions against the person concerned and this is a very clear cut case,” he said.

Sarawak PKR secretary Nicholas Bawin, who was present at the press conference, said at least 50 police reports have been lodged over the last two days against the Facebook account holder who uses the name “Helmi bin Abdullah Mee”.

He said the most of the reports were lodged by members of the Dayak community included those residing in Kuala Lumpur.

“We expect more reports to be lodged over the next few days,” he said.