By Clara Chooi
PETALING JAYA, Feb 22 — Pakatan Rakyat has slammed the recent caning of three Muslim women for allegedly participating in illicit sex, accusing the Syariah Court of disrespecting Syariah laws. PR leader and PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang said today that the incident which occurred last week “embarrasses” the Muslims as it did not properly follow Syariah laws.
“This is because our Syariah Courts are still rife with rules that hamper them from carrying out Syariah laws the proper way,” he said after attending the PR secretariat meeting here this afternoon. Abdul Hadi said that what was important was how the due process of law had taken place the manner in which the perpetrators had admitted to the offence. “Was it voluntary or not? How were they caught in the act? Was it because of their own doing (that the offence took place)? There are many aspects. It is not just a spontaneous thing (to mete out caning as a punishment),” he said. He accused the Barisan Nasional (BN) of using the caning punishment to influence Muslim voters who “themselves do not understand the concept of Islamic laws”.
Agreeing with him, PR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim cited an example of his application for a qazaf (criminal defamation) charge at the Syariah Court against his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan. “If they are serious about this (using Syariah laws), then why are they, the minister in charge of religion and Jawi trying to throw my case out so quickly?” he asked. In his application notice, Anwar named Federal Territory (FT) chief syarie prosecutor Shamsuddin Hussain, FT Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) director Datuk Che Mat Che Ali and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Jamil Khir as respondents. He is seeking for the Syariah Court to force Shamsuddin to expedite the qazaf charge against Mohd Saiful and at the same time stop Che Mat and Jamil from intervening in the process. The court last week fixed March 10 to hear preliminary objections raised by the three respondents. “They are using the courts to play their game of cheap politics but God’s will is very clear – it does not matter if the person who commits the wrong is of high rank or a just a layman – he must be punished. “It does not mean that a person charged with RM1 million corruption gets freed but the man accused of a RM50 corruption gets jailed. “The process of law must be truly transparent and fair,” said Anwar.
Last Wednesday, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein announced that three women had been caned on Feb 9 at the Kajang Prison under Section 23 (2) of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997 for having illicit sex. The trio became the first women in the country to be caned for committing syariah offences. The case raised international ire especially when the Syariah court had also recently sentenced part-time model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno to caning for drinking beer in July last year. Her sentence has yet been carried out.
DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang said that the issue, and that of Anwar’s Sodomy 2 trial, had created much adverse international publicity for Malaysia. “(Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib, as the prime minister must give serious personal attention to this and find out why, under his rule, we are having a series of endless adverse international publicity. “It is bad for competitiveness,” he said. Lim scoffed at Najib’s claims that Anwar’s trial was a “personal matter” said that this was proved by the fact that the premier has dispatched a mission comprising three top government officials to Washington next week to “win friends”. The three are Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and former Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad. “Why should the attorney-general go to Washington to win friends for KL? In terms of convincing the international forum that rule of law is followed here, his job is to administer justice to ensure there is international confidence. “His job is not to go there to lobby legislators or administrators to convince them that he is doing his job properly,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hadi also clarified his statement that appeared to be in conflict with the PR leadership on the interference of a group of Australian MPs who are lobbying for the sodomy charges against Anwar to be dropped. He explained that as a Malaysian, he felt embarrassed that a foreign nation had questioned the impartiality of the local judiciary. “I am embarrassed. What we need to do is to clean up our own judicial system,” he said. Lim called for an emergency meeting of Parliament to canvas opinions from all sides of the aisle on the matter.