MALAYSIA’S northeastern state of Kelantan has made amendments to its religious Islamic laws to allow public caning against “criminals” who breach its strict Syariah code.
The New Straits Times quoted Kelantan Chief Minister Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah as saying the state legislative assembly had amended the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Procedure Enactment 2002 to include public caning as an option for the state’s Islamic courts.
“However, with the amendment, the sentencing can be carried out in public or prison depending on the court’s decision. This is in accordance with Islam, as in the sentencing must be done in public,” he said after closing a state assembly session on Wednesday.
The state’s Islamic Development, Dakwah (propagation) and Information committee chairman Nassuruddin Daud, who proposed the amendment to the law, said it needed to be changed as it had been 15 years since it was enacted with many developments taking place in between.
“Among the amendments are the introduction of public caning and the acceptance of video and other electronic equipment as evidence in court trials.”
“The other amendments are technical in nature like how the caning will be carried out and so on,” Nassuruddin said.
For over two decades, Kelantan has been led by the Pan-Islamist Party (PAS), an orthodox Muslim party which had traditionally been an opposition force influential in Malaysia’s rural areas. Recent developments in Malaysia’s politics has seen PAS warm up to its long-time rival, the United Malays National Organisation from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.
Despite the state government’s assertions, the implementation of corporal punishment in the public sphere has yet to be determined as the state requires the approval of the federal government.
However, the amendment brings PAS closer to realising its decades-long pursuit of implementing “Hudud”, the branch of Syariah laws that prescribes corporal punishment for moral offences such as pre-marital sex and the drinking of alcohol.
At the end of this month, Malaysia’s lower house of Parliament is expected to debate a bill to amend Act 355 of the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, also known as the controversial RUU355.
The bill – commonly known as Hadi’s Bill after the man who proposed it – would increase the Syariah punishment caps in Malaysia to a maximum 30 years’ imprisonment, RM100,000 (US$22,400) fine and 100 lashes of the cane – far harsher sentences than those currently implemented under the civil system.
Kelantan’s amendment on Wednesday is a move by the state government to prepare itself for the passing of Hadi’s Bill in Parliament.
“The amendments needed to be done to assist Syariah judges, prosecutors, lawyers, religious enforcers in conducting Syariah criminal procedures in a more orderly and uniform manner,” Nassuruddin said, as quoted by Sinar Harian.