Enactment of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Hudud and Qisas Bill) by PAS Terengganu State Government marks the final failure  of the Barisan Alternative to create a two-coalition system

Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Tuesday): The Federal Court tomorrow will be the focus of national and world attention as it convenes to deliver judgment in the appeal by former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim against his conviction for corruption and six-year jail sentence, as at stake is not just the liberty and justice for Anwar but the system of justice in Malaysia. 

Anwar’s lawyer, Sankara Nair, said Anwar deserves an outright acquittal and hoped that the Federal Court will right the wrongs of the High Court and Court of Appeal in the Anwar corruption trial. 

Foreign governments, possible foreign investors and the international legal and human rights community will be following closely the Federal Court judgment tomorrow.  In January this year, the United States Ambassador to Malaysia, Marie T. Huhtala said that the United States government stood firm on its conviction that  the Anwar trials were “manifestly unfair”,  that Anwar did not get fair court trials but believed this could be “corrected in the appeals process”.  

This followed her statement to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee as a nominee for US Ambassador to Malaysia on 25th July 2001, where she said:  

“We remain deeply concerned by the case of jailed former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and the treatment of members of the political opposition. As Malaysia develops into a high-tech economy and information society, restrictions on basic rights such as freedom of speech and assembly are incompatible with its long-term goals. This is an area where we can work with Malaysia to develop modern political freedoms to match its modernizing economy.”

There have been a lot of speculation and rumours about the Federal Court judgment and DAP hopes that tomorrow, Anwar could be acquitted of the corruption conviction and be freed on bail pending his appeal against the sodomy conviction and  nine-year jail sentence.

The coincidence of the Federal Court judgment with the Anak Bukit and Pendang by-elections Nomination Day is most extraordinary. 

It is also most extraordinary that the weekly Wednesday Cabinet meeting tomorrow should be changed and brought forward today due to the nominations for the Pendang and Anak Bukit by-elections. 

However, the Federal Court judgment on the Anwar appeal will not be overshadowed by the nominations for the two Kedah by-elections, although it will be overshadowed by the enactment of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Hudud and Qisas Bill) by the PAS Terengganu state government in the Terengganu State Assembly yesterday. 

The enactment of the Hudud and Qisas Bill by the PAS Terengganu State Government marks the final failure of the Barisan Alternative to create a two-coalition system in Malaysia, inspired by the political ferment in the immediate aftermath of the Anwar sacking and persecution by the Mahathir administration. 

In the sea-change of the  post-911 political scenario both on the global and local scene, instead of greater emphasis on moderation and social tolerance for plural Malaysia, there is the unhealthy competition between UMNO and PAS to “out-Islam” each other – as characterized by the “929 Declaration” of Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the Gerakan national assembly on September 29 last year that Malaysia is an Islamic State and the enactment of the Hudud and Qisas Bill by the PAS Terengganu State Government yesterday. 

In Kuching yesterday, Mahathir praised the first Prime Minister of Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman for uniting Malaysians of all races, but Mahathir has broken ranks from one of Tunku’s most important legacies as Bapa Malaysia – the Tunku’s pledge and commitment not to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state and to defend and preserve the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, the “social contract” and 1963 Malaysia Agreement that Malaysia is a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State. 

After he took over the PAS leadership following the death of Datuk Fadhil Noor, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang dismissed fears that he would be more “extreme” than his predecessor and said that his answer will be through his actions and decisions. 

But though he spoke the language of a “moderate agenda”, his action and decision proved otherwise, as illustrated by the precipitate decision to enact the Hudud and Qisas Bill although  it is against the Malaysian Constitution, violates human rights, discriminate against women,  destroys the whole basis of the 1999 Barisan Alternative Common Manifesto “Towards A Just Malaysia” and flouts strong and widespread objections by the civil society. 

It is most shocking and completely unacceptable that Hadi has upped the ante in the rivalry with UMNO to “out-Islam” each other with his statement when winding up the debate on the Hudud and Qisas Bill yesterday that PAS would impose the hudud and qisas laws to even non-Muslims in the state “when every citizen understands them”. 

Hadi’s latest statement that hudud and qisas would finally be imposed on non-Muslims and the ever escalating cycle of competititon between UMNO and PAS to “out-Islam” each other is not good news for Malaysia’s future, whether in nation-building or in attracting foreign investments at a time when China has emerged as the biggest magnet for foreign direct investments with her entry into the World Trade Organisation. 

What Malaysia needs is the strong voice of moderation and social tolerance. Malaysians should revisit Anwar’s  1996 book, The Asian Renaissance, where he wrote specifically on the hudud issue and said  that he is supportive of Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s advocacy for fiqh al-awlawiyyat, the understanding of the priorities of Islamic law,  and that “the application of the hudud …is not necessarily among the top priorities of contemporary societies.” (page 119).

Anwar wrote:

“True, Southeast Asian Muslims are not without their share of problems. But what differentiates them from their brethren in other parts of the world is their sense of priorities. The proponents of the imposition of Muslim laws or the establishment of an Islamic state are confined to the periphery.  Southeast Asian Muslims prefer to concentrate on the task of ensuring economic growth and eradicating poverty, instead of amputating the limbs of thieves. They would rather strive to improve the welfare of the women and children in their midst, than spend their days elaborately defining the nature and institutions of the ideal Islamic State. They do not believe it would make one less of a Muslim to promote economic growth, to master the information revolution, and to demand justice for women. Nor do they believe it would strengthen one’s commitment to religion by instilling anxiety among people of other faiths.’ (page 114)


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman