Will shariah amendments make our nation better?

This article has earlier appeared in Beritadaily.com on 27/2/2017

Well, the so-called PAS-sponsored Himpunan 355 has come and gone. The rally was supposedly to garner support for PAS president Hadi Awang’s private member’s bill, which is expected to be tabled in parliament next month, to enhance punishments under the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, also known as Act 355.

PAS’ long-time arch rival Umno has also come out in support of Hadi’s bill, citing the importance of uniting regardless of political affiliation in order to protect the religion from threats.

Can PAS and Umno enlighten us on who is “threatening” Islam in Malaysia and how the “threat” has been initiated? Are they able to identify the culprits who have threatened the religion all this while?

Prior to PAS’ decision to forward the bill to amend Act 355 to provide for stiffer shariah punishments, did they scrutinise the bill to look for measures that would enforce good governance and curb corruption in the government?

If the bill is tabled in parliament next month and passed, what good would it bring to our nation as a whole? Can this “enhanced” shariah law help to improve the livelihood of the majority of our people, strengthen justice, eradicate corruption and improve the socio-economic status of the people?

Our major concern today is our government’s inability to resolve some very serious problems facing the country. Our nation’s economic standing is deteriorating, the ringgit is running out of steam and some foreign investors are leaving because of their distrust of the government. The unemployment rate is growing and inflation is rising as well.

People want to rise and bring about change to the nation by choosing a new government but Putrajaya is putting obstacles in their way. It is creating more oppressive laws and enhancing police powers to undermine human rights. The government is not averse to playing the racial and religious card to warn people of a possible repeat of the May 13 1969 riots.

None of our business?

PAS and Umno leaders have repeatedly accused those who oppose Act 355 of interfering in the affairs of the religion and even told off critics that it’s “none of your business”. If it is true the proposed amendments were none of the non-Muslims’ business, then why did PAS and Umno make a big public show of the bill? It has been made very public because PAS and Umno expect it to touch our very lives as well.

One can only suspect the sinister motive to amend the law to make it superior to the civil law. The people have a right to say No to any move that may undermine the Federal Constitution. Every single Malaysian citizen has the right to voice their views and objections on new or proposed laws regardless of their race or religion.

Malaysia is a multiracial and multicultural nation that has been held together by the spirit of the Federal Constitution. We are a nation that is closely linked to the international community via trade, investment, education, tourism and other pursuits. There is grave concern that we may lose this status if the rule of law, justice and fairness for all are compromised by another set of laws from the religious side.

Is there anyone from Putrajaya who is able to come forward and come clean on the “social contract” they have been shouting about all these years? Come on, PAS and Umno leaders. Be practical and face the fact in this human world instead of always seeking for divine intervention when your political adventures are running out of fuel.

Our nation’s standing is currently very low. We have been besieged by major scandals and racial and religious tension is rearing its ugly head. We badly need good governance, which means upholding integrity, transparency and accountability of the public institutions to ensure a clean and responsible government. The primary responsibilities of such a government are to protect the rights and freedom of citizens as stipulated under the Federal Constitution.

If the shariah bill could ensure good governance for our nation and justice for all regardless of race and religion, we are certain everyone will encourage their MPs to vote for it. But if it is just a tool to enhance the powers of some selfish, powerful political elites or groups, then we will definitely oppose it to the very end.

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