Is PAS and BA taking  plural Malaysia into  the  21st century of information technology with fullest human and spiritual development or  back to the Middle Age of stonings, lashings, amputations and crucifixions?

Media Comment 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Thursday): The Terengganu PAS Syariah Criminal Offences (Hudud and Qisas) Enactment raises the fundamental question as to whether PAS and the Barisan Alternative are taking Malaysia into  the  21st century of information technology with fullest human and spiritual development or  back to the Middle Age of  stonings, lashings, amputations and crucifixions?

The speeches by the PAS Terengganu Mentri Besar, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and other PAS leaders, including State Exco Members and Assemblymen during the debate of Hudud and Qisas Bill in the Terengganu State Assembly – some of which were most insensitive and offensive  to the other religions – are matters of grave concern.

For instance, Hadi repeatedly used Saudi Arabia as a model suitable for multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia to emulate, claiming that it   exemplified the safe and peaceful society that is free from crime as a result of the implementation of syariah criminal law.

Is Hadi right?  Could Hadi be mistaken or misinformed?

The Amnesty International’s (AI)  Annual Report 2002 which  grouped  Saudi Arabia with countries with very poor criminal justice systems and human rights records, started its 2002 survey of Saudi Arabia as follows:

“Grave and widespread human rights violations continued to be reported. They were perpetuated by the strictly secretive criminal justice system and the government policy of barring political parties, trade unions and independent human rights organizations; international non-governmental human rights organizations were not allowed access to the country. The government failed to respond to any of the concerns raised by AI during the year. Hundreds of teenagers were flogged. Women continued to face severe discrimination. Arrests of suspected political and religious activists continued and the legal status of those held from previous years remained shrouded in secrecy. New information came to light on the torture of detainees in previous years. At least 79 people were executed. Over 5,000 Iraqi refugees continued to live in Rafha camp as virtual prisoners, denied the right to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia. “

The AI 2002 Annual Report on Saudi Arabia makes for somber and grim reading. Discrimination against women in law and practice continued unchecked, with women still banned from driving while no single woman was appointed to the 120-strong Consultative Council appointed by the King.

By the end of the year, hundreds of teenagers had been flogged, most of them in public places, in extrajudicial and summary campaigns spearheaded by the religious police, targeting those suspected of harassing women and other behaviour deemed immoral, including talking to women, whistling at them, trying to pass telephone numbers to them, and wearing transparent or women’s-style clothes.  

The systematic practice of incommunicado detention and torture continued unabated.  

Severe discrimination against women continued to put women at increased rsk of domestic violence, with foreign domestic workers particularly vulnerable to such abuses.  A Labour Ministry official admitted  in March of the year that around 19,000 foreign maids had run away from their employers and one of the main reasons was domestic violence against them. 

In addition to its use as extrajudicial punishment against children, flogging remained widely practised as a judicial corporal punishment handed down by judges as a main or additional punishment after unfair trials.  Apart from death sentences for drug charges, sentences of 1,500 lashes in addition to 15 years’ imprisonment had been handed down – the floggings to be carried out at a rate of 50 lashes every sx months for the whole duration of the 15 years.

Arrests of prisoners of conscience, political and religious activists continued during 2001. Most of those arrested, mainly members of the Shi'a and Christian communities, were released without trial after weeks or months of detention. In addition, there were unconfirmed reports that hundreds of people were rounded up in the wake of the 11 September attacks in the USA, but no details were available. It was not known how many remained in detention at the end of the year.

At least 79 people were executed. All were sentenced to death after unfair trials. They were convicted on charges which included murder, rape, or drug trafficking. The government continued to keep secret information on people under sentence of death and at risk of execution.

Even more grim and bleak readings are the slew of reports by the Amnesty International in the past three years, which are terrible indictments about massive human rights violations and the travesty of justice in the Saudi Arabia system of criminal justice, such as:  

It is unthinkable that Malaysia should be emulating the Saudi Arabian system of criminal justice and human rights – when it should be the other way round,  however defective and unsatisfactory the Malaysian state of human rights and system of justice.  

In the 2001 Human Development Index of the  United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report 2001, Malaysia was placed 56th out of 162 countries (which is most unsatisfactory), but higher than Saudi Arabia which was ranked 68th position.  

The Human Development Index provides a way of ranking countries on the wider issue of human development, rather than just on income – and is therefore a viable alternative to GNP per capita and increasingly being used to monitor the progress of nations and of global society.  

Malaysia should be moving ahead towards the fullest human and spiritual development of Malaysians in the 21st century of globalization, liberalization and  information and communication technology rather than throwing back to the Middle Age by adopting cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments and torture.  

It is not too late for PAS and BA to stop all development and implementation of the Hudud and Qisas Bill, including the withholding of the Bill from the Sultan of Terengganu for royal assent, until the fullest national multi-racial and multi-religious consensus could be reached to avoid gravely splitting the plural Malasian nation. 


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman