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KUCHING, March 30 — A senior Opposition figure today called on Sarawak and Sabah leaders to make a stand to reject any move by Umno to amend the Federal Constitution to make Shariah law the supreme law of the federation.
Selangau MP Baru Bian said the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) must make their stand clear to the public so voters will know how to cast their ballot when the time comes.
“As for me, my stand has been consistent that Malaysia is a secular nation and that the Federal Constitution is supreme,” Baru, who is also Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) presidential council member, said in a statement when responding to Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s vow uttered at the just concluded Umno annual general assembly in Kuala Lumpur.
At the general assembly two days ago, Ahmad Zahid had vowed that Umno would push for the amendment of the Federal Constitution should the party form a supermajority in Parliament in a bid to “empower” Shariah law.
In his policy speech, the Umno president criticised the Federal Court ruling that annulled Selangor state law’s provision which made unnatural sex a Shariah offence, saying the decision had deep ramification that could “denigrate” Islam and challenge the sovereign power of Malay rulers.
The former deputy prime minister had also remarked on a landmark High Court ruling that upheld the constitutional right of Bumiputera Christians to use the word “Allah” in their religious worship that has sparked a backlash among conservative Malays.
He had said the ruling could potentially annul all criminal Shariah enactments in the states, it could challenge the sovereign power of the Malay Rulers.
“If we have a two-thirds majority, we must amend the Federal Constitution so that Shariah Law can be strengthened,” Ahmad Zahid vowed.
Baru, who is also a practising lawyer, reminded Ahmad Zahid that Malaysia does not have a theocratic government, but a constitutional monarchy and Article 4 of our Constitution states plainly the Constitution is the supreme law of the Federation.
“It does not say that about Shariah law,” he said, pointing out that Shariah law is not the supreme law of the federation and Malaysia is not an Islamic nation.
Baru said the issue arising from the debate at the Umno general assembly surrounding the “Allah” case and the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995 relates to the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and the secular status of Malaysia.
He said the first case is to do with freedom of religion which is guaranteed by the Federal Constitution while the second case merely affirms that where state laws are found to be inconsistent with the Federal Constitution, then Article 4 provides that the state law has to fail.
“The judgment, in this case, is that the state has no power to legislate on criminal matters as that is the jurisdiction of the federal government given by the Federal Constitution.
“In the final analysis, the two cases merely show that when the executive and the state legislative encroaches upon an area not provided for under the Federal Constitution, the court can declare that their action is unlawful and unconstitutional.
“Therefore, it is misleading for the Umno president to say that there is a need to amend the Federal Constitution to strengthen Shariah law because of these two court decisions,” Baru said.
Baru asked Ahmad Zahid if he Is he saying that he plans to change the Federal Constitution to make Shariah law supreme.
“Is he saying that he wants to amend Article 4 and Article 10 of the Federal Constitution? The Borneo States had registered our fear that this would happen,” he said, adding that Sarawak and Sabah did not sign up for this when they agreed to form the federation of Malaysia.
“We signed up for a secular Malaysia, as evident in Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), the Malaysia Act, and the pre-formation documents.
“ When we agreed to form Malaysia, it was with the understanding that we remain a nation governed by the rule of law and not by religious laws.
“Our forefathers placed such high priority and importance on the secularity of our country that it was one of the key findings of the Cobbold Commission that there was to be no official religion for Sarawak,” he said.
He added any attempts to turn this country to an Islamic state would be a clear breach of a fundamental term of the MA63, for which Sarawak would have recourse in the courts of law.