Press Statement by Karpal Singh in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, 11th January 2009:

Civil law for all Malaysians 

It appears that both PAS and PKR are for the introduction of hudud laws in the country. Yesterday in Kuching, PKR adviser, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, said, “If the Muslims want to have their own Islamic laws, there is no need for the Christians to be unhappy. The same goes for the Muslims, they should not get angry if the Christians want to do thing their way.”

I find it extremely difficult to comprehend what Anwar means by the phrase “Muslims should not get angry if the Christians want to do things their way”. He does not say that Muslims should not get angry if Christians wanted to have their own Christian laws.

PAS president, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, says hudud laws would be for Muslims and non-Muslims could opt to be tried by hudud law or civil law. This argument is illogical. What would happen if there are two co-accused, a Muslim and a non-Muslim, with the Muslim opting for hudud law and the non-Muslim for civil law? How would the courts get out of this dilemma?

But the point which ought not to be missed, which has been missed by both Anwar and Hadi Awang is that the Federal Constitution provides for one uniform law, namely, civil law for both Muslims and non-Muslims across the board.

The framers of the Federal Constitution did not envisage parallel criminal laws for Muslims and non-Muslims. What was intended was a uniform criminal law on both Muslims and non-Muslims with that jurisdiction conferred on the courts in the country by Federal law. It should not be forgotten that the framers of the Federal Constitution included two eminent Muslim jurists, namely, Hakim B. Malik of India and Hakim Abdul Hamid of Pakistan with Lord William Reid together with Sir Ivor Jennings of Britain and Sir William McKell of Australia. The Constitution, therefore, was a product of the best brains in the Commonwealth who were not solely Christians. Both the Muslim jurists who worked on what was to be included in the Constitution were well aware of the multi-religious set up of the country in 1957 with the paramount need to have Islam as the official religion of the country not forgetting that the basic structure of the Constitution had to be secular in nature.

The Federal Constitution is required to be amended only through a two-third majority in Parliament. An amendment cannot include destruction of the basic structure of the Constitution. That would go beyond amendment. The framers of the Constitution did not have in mind a complete substitution of the basic structure of that sacred document even by a two-third majority in Parliament.

The call by both PAS and PKR to have hudud laws applicable to Muslims with an option given to non-Muslims to choose between hudud law and civil law would, and must, mean the introduction of an Islamic state which would mean destruction of the basic structure of the Constitution. That eventuality cannot come about even with any party having a two-third majority in Parliament.

The political statement by Dr Mahathir Mohammad, when he was Prime Minister in September 2001, that Malaysia was an Islamic state is devoid of any meaning or substance and cannot withstand close scrutiny. Dr Mahathir is obviously ignorant of the provisions relating to Malaysia being a secular state.

After 51 years of independences, secular law has been accepted by both Muslims and non-Muslims in the country. Any attempt by any quarter to bring about a change in that equation would mean a defiance of the Constitution.

I call upon both PAS and PKR to cease and desist from further clamouring for the impossible and accept that hudud laws have no place in our statute books. The peace and harmony among the races of different faiths in the country should not be threatened by attempts to emasculate the Federal Constitution.

The DAP is prepared to cooperate with PAS and the Pakatan Rakyat subject to the caveat that both PAS and PKR do not attempt to destroy the Federal Constitution by insisting on introduction of hudud laws, the prerequisite of which is the setting up of an Islamic state, which is unacceptable to the DAP as a matter of principle. It has been said in politics there are no permanent enemies or friends, but the need to have permanent principles must remain sacrosanct for any political party worth its name to be acceptable to the rakyat.

* Karpal Singh, DAP National Chairman & MP for Bukit Gelugor