KUALA LUMPUR, June 9 ― PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s Shariah Bill will face fierce resistance in the Dewan Rakyat this October as federal lawmakers, in a rare show of bipartisanship, are expected to cross party lines to ensure its failure.
Although some in Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional (BN) may abstain from voting, at least 62 MPs from both sides have indicated they will attend the House sitting and vote “nay” to stop the Bill’s passage.
For a simple majority approval, the Bill must receive more than half the votes cast as support is based on those voting, and not on the MPs present. An MP who attends but abstains would have no impact on the vote.
The declared MPs are from Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), BN’s lynchpin in Sarawak; United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation in Sabah; peninsula-based BN components MCA and Gerakan, and Pakatan Harapan’s DAP.
PBB is the second-largest BN party in the 222-seat Parliament with 14 seats. Umno is the largest, with 86 seats, while MCA has seven and Gerakan, two.
According to PBB secretary-general Datuk Dr Stephen Rundie, party president and Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem has instructed all its lawmakers in the lower House to vote against the Bill.
“There is no question of them abstaining from voting on the Bill or giving their support. They must vote against the Bill when votes are taken later,” he told Malay Mail Online.
Rundie acknowledged, however, that federal minister Nancy Shukri, who is also a PBB MP, has said she will not attend Parliament when the Bill is tabled.
He said the party accepted Nancy’s decision, noting that the Batang Sadong MP’s responsibilities as member of a federal Cabinet committee handling east Malaysian affairs made it better for her to abstain from voting.
Another Sarawak-based BN party, Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), however, will join Nancy in opting out of the voting process.
PRS president Tan Sri Dr James Masing said there was nothing wrong in his party’s six federal lawmakers refraining from voting on the PAS Bill.
“But I do hope that all the BN MPs are allowed to vote according to their conscience, not subject to the directive of the BN’s whip,” he said.
Like PBB, UPKO’s federal lawmakers are also expected to vote down the Bill.
“The three UPKO MPs will definitely be there to vote against the Bill and defend the Federal Constitution,” said a source from the party.
BN components MCA and Gerakan have all objected to the Bill, with MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai recently urging all federal lawmakers across the aisle to help his party block its passage through Parliament.
Gerakan president Datuk Mah Siew Keong told Malay Mail Online that both he and his party’s other MP, secretary-general Liang Teck Meng, will vote against the Bill.
In the opposition camp, the 37 MPs from Pakatan Harapan component DAP are expected to show up in full force to vote down PAS’s Bill.
“If everyone skips, the Bill will pass,” Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari, who is one of two DAP’s Muslim federal lawmakers, told Malay Mail Online. “Voting against means voting against. I am voting against”.
Malay Mail Online was unable to reach DAP’s other Muslim federal lawmaker, Raub MP Datuk Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz, for comment.
It is not immediately known if PKR will follow its partner in opposing the Bill.
PKR secretary-general Rafizi Ramli, who is Pandan MP, was non-committal when asked if all 28 PKR lawmakers would turn up in Parliament to vote against PAS’s Bill, saying the question was “immaterial and irrelevant because the voting will not happen”.
“However, if it comes to the point that it will be debated, which I doubt, then the leadership will sit down and discuss how we will debate it,” he added.
Malay Mail Online was unable to contact the leaderships of MIC and Sabah’s BN components, namely Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), which has four MPs, and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS), which has one MP.
Leaders from all three parties have, however, indicated their objection to the PAS Bill.
Hadi’s Bill seeks to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 and allow Islamic courts to hand down harsher sentences. It does not propose to expressly amend the Federal Constitution, but some critics insist such an amendment was necessary given that it could lay the foundation to dual criminal systems.
The Shariah courts are currently restricted from imposing sentences beyond a three-year jail term, RM5,000 fine and six lashes of the whip on Muslim offenders.
The Bill, which has received the support of the Umno leadership, is expected to be debated during the next parliamentary meeting in October. – Malay Mail Online