KUALA LUMPUR – March 30, 2017: As is often the case, some agree and others don’t.
There were political analysts spoken to today who agreed that the Barisan Nasional has made the right decision in deciding not to table in Parliament the bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdictions) Act, popularly referred to as RUU355, while one dissented.
One considered the decision to be in line with the coalition’s practice of ruling by consensus, in this case taking in the views of its non-Muslims partners.
“I think it’s a good move. I had criticised the bill earlier on. It will have a very serious impact on BN itself as the majority of its component parties are against it,” International Movement for a Just World president Dr. Chandra Muzaffar said.
“I was not happy that the government was going to take the lead earlier but now it’s good that BN respects the consensus,” he added.
Chandra, nonetheless, noted that it is the right of a legislator to put forward such a bill.
“It’s their right to pursue the agenda of strengthening syariah laws. But, I don’t think the bill will get the support of a majority of parliamentarians.”
The BN supreme council made this decision yesterday, which means that the bill initiated by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang will remain as it is.
The council also agreed to that it is for the Dewan Rakyat speaker to decide when the bill should be tabled, if at all.
Geostrategist Azmi Hassan concurs, stressing that the decision will not put BN Muslim and non-Muslim parliamentarians in a bind.
On concern that the move will adversely affect efforts on the unification of the ummah (Muslims) by PAS and Umno, Azmi thinks the opposite will in fact happen.
“Since it remains as a private member’s bill, BN’s Muslim MPs are free to vote or support without putting undue pressure on their non-Muslim allies.”
Another analyst, Associate Professor Samsul Adabi Mamat of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, however argues that the decision will leave a negative perception of BN.
This is because he thinks that a majority of Umno grassroots members and Malay voters have stated their support for RUU355.
“At the last Umno general assembly, the party president successfully garnered grassroots support for the bill. Yesterday’s decision will only cost BN and Umno a large amount of support later (in the next general election).”
Another point raised by Samsul is that the coalition should instead continue to give an assurance to component parties that RUU355 would not affect non-Muslims.
In a statement, PAS information chief Nasruddin Hassan Tantawi reiterated an earlier stand that PAS remains unperturbed and will focus on continuing its efforts to table the bill and have the law amended.