KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — Lawyer Lukman Sheriff Alias, who supports the Sedition Act and PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s Bill to enhance Shariah punishments (known as RUU355), was elected to the Bar Council.
The lawyer was among the dozen elected to the Malaysian Bar’s leadership body for the 2018/2019 term, besides human rights advocates Siti Kasim and Andrew Khoo.
The Bar Council has typically stood up for human rights and advocated for fundamental liberties such as freedom of speech and assembly, besides speaking out on various issues like religious freedom, the death penalty, and deaths in custody among others.
Former Malaysian Bar president Hendon Mohamed, who served from 1995 to 1997, also won election to the Bar Council, receiving the most number of votes at 2,157, followed by Karen Cheah and Ravi Nekoo.
Lukman and Siti came in 10th and last, respectively.
The 2018/2019 election only featured 13 candidates vying for 12 spots in the direct election to the Bar Council. The Bar Council also includes the chairman and a representative from each of the 12 state Bar committees, as well as the immediate past president and vice president of the Malaysian Bar, comprising 38 members in total.
Lukman previously argued at a public debate organised by secular group BEBAS last March, in favour of the motion that Hadi’s private member’s Bill to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355) should be made into law.
He had said Hadi’s Bill — which proposed to increase the maximum punishment caps of Shariah courts from three years’ jail to 30 years, from RM5,000 in fines to RM100,000, and from six lashes to 100 — did not introduce hudud and merely sought to increase sentencing limits of existing Shariah offences.
Malaysian Bar president George Varughese said last April that Hadi’s Bill was problematic and raised concerns that it could pave the way for hudud law, a harsh Islamic penal code deemed to be unconstitutional.
Lukman was also spokesman for G100, a group of lawyers that had filed an unsuccessful motion in the Malaysian Bar’s 2015 annual general meeting to revoke a previous resolution by the Bar that called for the repeal of the Sedition Act.