KOTA KINABALU, March 30 — A Sabah DAP leader today described Umno’s move to push for the strengthening of Shariah laws and to introduce a new law to control and curb the propagation of non-Muslim religions as a step backward for unity in Malaysia. 

Sabah DAP secretary Chan Foong Hin said the move is clearly a sign of Umno’s insecurity and goes against the agreements made during the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.

“How can a political party which is part of the ruling coalition in control of both the Sabah state government and the Federal government make such a call? 

“Non-Muslims in Sabah have been living in harmony with Muslims in the state without the need for such laws, what more an amendment to the Constitution of Malaysia to restrict freedom of religion,” Chan said in a statement.

The Kota Kinabalu MP said that he agrees with United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation (Upko) which had recently called for a renegotiation of the federal set-up for Malaysia if such a move goes ahead.

“To amend our Malaysian Constitution into something which is unlike what our country’s founding fathers intended would be a grave betrayal to them. It is imperative for Umno leaders like Zahid to have a read of the Cobbold Commission Report and the Report of the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) on the Proposed Federation, and he will realise that freedom of religion is one of the main pillars in the founding of this beloved Federation of Malaysia.

“Restriction of religion, including propagation, has no part at all in it,” said Chan, referring to Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Chan said while Umno wishes to appeal to its right-wing allies and Muafakat Nasional partner PAS, it has to be more considerate of inter-race and religion relations in Malaysia.

He called on Sabah Umno leaders such as Datuk Seri Bung Mokthar Radin to state their stand as to whether they agree to such moves. 

“Will Bung Mokthar and Mohamad Alamin as two Umno Members of Parliament from Sabah declare their support to such an amendment to the Federal Constitution? I hereby challenge them to make their stand clear so that voters can make an informed decision whether they are to be trusted to represent the interest of Sabahans vis-à-vis having Shariah Law inscribed into the Federal Constitution,” said Chan.

Chan said while the Malaysian Federal Constitution is a living document and can be amended by two-thirds supermajority in the Dewan Rakyat, all Sabahan MPs should not slide down the slippery slope by sacrificing the larger State’s rights.

“Even though the argument is that non-Muslims won’t be affected, it is not entirely true. In Sabah, we also have Native Customary Laws and the Mahkamah Anak Negeri to regulate such laws. Besides that, we have seen many cases of dispute when Shariah Law is involved, like for example dispute in child custody by a non-Muslim mother, dispute in the distribution of assets of a deceased where the parents are non-Muslim,” he said. 

During the Umno annual general meeting held over the weekend, Zahid said the party will strengthen Shariah law if it wins a two-thirds majority in the next general election.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Datuk Ahmad Marzuk Shaaryalso recently proposed the Control and Restriction on the Propagation of Non-Muslim Religions Bill which will further restrict religions other than Islam from propagating their beliefs to Muslims.