Sabah, Sarawak to go ‘separate ways’ if Parliament passes Shariah amendments, Kurup warns

Kurup said the Bill risks dividing East and West Malaysia and called for its withdrawal. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Kurup said the Bill risks dividing East and West Malaysia and called for its withdrawal. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 — United Sabah People’s Party president Tan Sri Joseph Kurup cautioned Putrajaya that Sabahans and Sarawakians may demand to split from peninsular Malaysia if the proposed amendments to Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 are passed in Parliament.

Kurup who is also minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of national unity said the Bill risks dividing East and West Malaysia and called for its withdrawal.

“If it is forced into Parliament and passed, I’m afraid it will trigger more feelings among the people of Sabah and Sarawak to go their separate ways.

“They [Federal government] shouldn’t have the slightest thought of introducing this law,” the Pensiangan MP was quoted as saying by the weekend edition of The Star daily today.

However, Kurup did not say if he would resign from the government if the proposal is passed, as some Barisan Nasional (BN) elected representatives have pledged.

“The instruction from my supreme council is, as far as my position is concerned, and the words they use is, we have to put our foot down. So, I think there is a subtle meaning to that,” he said.

Sarawak lawmakers have similarly made a firm stand in disagreeing with the passage of the proposed amendments touted as the “hudud Bill”.

“PRS (Parti Rakyat Sarawak) will not agree if the amendments involves introduction of ‘hudud’, bit by bit, into the Malaysian society,” Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing was quoted telling The Borneo Post yesterday.

The Borneo newspaper previously reported the PRS president saying he would instruct his party MPs to vote against the Bill at its tabling in Parliament, which he asserted was against the Federal Constitution.

Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) president Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian said his party is opposed to hudud as the Malaysia Agreement 1963 states that the federation should be secular.

“For SUPP, our position is very clear — we oppose this legislation because Sarawak will never accept such a law. I am also pleased that Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem and Sarawak BN have stated many times that hudud laws will not be implemented in the state,” he was quoted as saying Friday by The Borneo Post.

On Thursday, fellow Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said tabled a motion to expedite the tabling of PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s private member’s Bill in Parliament to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, also known as the “hudud” Bill.

However, Hadi surprisingly requested it to be deferred for debate at the next parliamentary meeting in October.

The Bill seeks to empower Shariah courts to enforce punishments ― except for the death penalty ― provided in Shariah laws for Islamic offences listed under state jurisdiction in the Federal Constitution, without elaborating on the nature of the punishments.

Shariah court punishments are currently limited to jail terms not exceeding three years, or whipping of not more than six strokes, or fines of not more than RM5,000.

Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties MCA and Gerakan presidents have threatened to quit their respective parties should PAS’ private members’ bill be passed in Parliament.

Umno president and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak later sought to allay concerns about Hadi’s Bill, saying that it was not meant to implement hudud law but merely to enable the Shariah courts to impose “a few more” strokes of caning from the current maximum of six.

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