PM: GOVERNMENT WILL NOT TABLE BILL TO AMEND ACT 355
Decision made in the spirit of consensus by BN Supreme Council, says PM
THE government will not table a bill in Parliament to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday.
He said the decision was made “in the spirit of consensus” during last night’s Barisan Nasional Supreme Council meeting.
“The BN Supreme Council has decided that the government will not table the bill, in line with our policy and practice that BN makes decisions based on consensus,” said Najib, who is BN chairman, during a press conference after chairing the meeting.
Najib said the bill would remain as a private member’s bill, which was first moved by Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang in Parliament on May 26 last year.
“It is up to the (Parliament) speaker to decide. If the speaker decides that the bill will be tabled, then it will be tabled.”
He said BN would not make a stand on the matter as it was still a private member’s bill.
On whether BN would support the bill if it was tabled, Najib said: “It depends on the speaker’s ruling. We will take it from there. BN has no consensus on (the private member’s bill). We will not have a formal position on (it). There may or may not be any voting (on the bill). It’s up to the speaker to decide.”
Najib said BN believed in the spirit of consensus, and that it would continue on that basis as the coalition was founded on that cardinal and fundamental principle.
Present were Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and representatives from BN’s 13 component parties.
It was reported recently that the government would take over Hadi’s private member’s bill, and make it a government bill when it was tabled in the present Parliament sitting.
It was also reported that BN had proposed a draft of its own amendment to the act, the details of which were not revealed.
Zahid had, on March 18, dropped hints that the government would table the bill, while Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said had, on Dec 1, said the government would pick up the bill.
Several BN leaders from Sabah and Sarawak had voiced objections to the bill, while the presidents of MCA and Gerakan had threatened to quit their positions in the cabinet if the bill was passed in Parliament.
The bill seeks to amend the act to empower the Islamic courts to enforce punishment, except for the death penalty, provided in syariah laws for Islamic offences listed under state jurisdiction in the Federal Constitution.
Syariah court punishments are currently limited to jail terms not exceeding three years, caning of not more than six strokes, or fines of not more than RM5,000.
When met later, MIC president Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said Najib, during the meeting, felt that it was best that the government did not table the bill.
Dr Subramaniam also revealed that more than 300 BN leaders, including Najib, would attend a retreat soon to prepare for the next general election, which would be held as early as this year.
On another matter, Najib said the government would issue a statement “when the time comes” on the ongoing negotiations with North Korea to secure the release of the nine Malaysians currently
stranded in Pyongyang.
“I hope we can remain patient because things like this involve negotiations between countries and it’s sensitive. What is important is the outcome, meaning the safety of our Malaysians in Pyongyang.”