A CALL for stiffer penalties for syariah offences, and who Umno should field for the Bagan Pinang by-election were among the issues that occupied the Malay-language dailies today.
Harsher penalties wanted
Utusan Malaysia‘s Herman Hamid reported in Pinda Akta Mahkamah Syariah on the calls for harsher penalties for syariah offences. The Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 currently sets out the “3-5-6 formula”: a syariah court’s maximum sentence for any syariah offence is three years in jail, a RM5,000 fine and six strokes of the whip. These sentences are considered too light and not enough of a deterrent for some.
Peguam Pembela Islam secretary-general Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar was quoted as saying that as the fines were set 25 years ago, they were too low and needed to be increased.
“For example, people are not afraid to commit [khalwat]. Even if they are caught, the fine is RM1,000. They can pay. These days, people wouldn’t be afraid even if the maximum fine is RM5,000 because it is now not a big sum,” Zainul said.
Zainul said the syariah courts’ powers needed to be increased to be in line with the civil courts. “The sentence imposed by the syariah courts should be on par with the jurisdiction of the civil courts, save for the power to impose the death penalty,” he added.
Additionally, Zainul wanted syariah offences to be expanded to include all actions that were against the religion’s teachings. He said that community service could be imposed against certain practices that are currently not offences under the law, such as the non-performance of obligatory prayers or solat fardu.
Malaysian Syariah Lawyers Association president Mohamad Isa Abd Ralip also called for the Act to be amended to increase the syariah courts’ jurisdiction and elevate the Islamic legal institution.
“Another issue at the moment is the tendency for the syariah courts in many states to only impose fines. They seem to avoid imposing whipping or jail terms. Not all, but the tendency is there,” he added.
Utusan Malaysia also put forth views arguing for former Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad to be fielded as the Barisan Nasional (BN)’s candidate for the 11 Oct 2009 Bagan Pinang by-election.
In Perwakilan tetap mahu Isa calon Bagan Pinang, the paper cited a Bernama report quoting Teluk Kemang Umno Youth chief Mohd Faizal Ramli as saying Isa had grassroots support, including from non-Malay Malaysians. Hence, Mohd Faizal said, Isa should be fielded, even though he was suspended from Umno in 2004 for three years due to money politics.
“I don’t see that the issue of Isa’s record will be a liability for Umno and the BN in the Bagan Pinang by-election,” Faizal said. He said that even Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has opposed Isa’s nomination, was disciplined by Tunku Abdul Rahman for publishing his book The Malay Dilemma. He noted that Mahathir was later brought back into the leadership by Tun Abdul Razak and in the end, emerged as a great leader.
In Ciri bersih tidak cukup pastikan kemenangan BN – Noh Omar, Umno supreme council member Datuk Noh Omar said that fielding a “clean” candidate was not sufficient to guarantee a BN win in the by-election. “If the candidate is just clean but does not have the spirit to serve the people and his leadership is not proven, it can jeopardise the BN’s chance of winning,” he said.
In the same Utusan Malaysia report, Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan was quoted as saying: “For me, it is not a big problem if a candidate has only been sentenced according to party discipline and has not been convicted of a crime. I am sure that a leader that has been sentenced due to money politics has learnt from the sentence that was imposed on him.”
Maslan went on to compare the current situation with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who won the Permatang Pauh by-election although he has a court case pending against him.
“This shows that if a candidate is already known by the community, the community would still have confidence in the leader even if he was in jail,” Maslan added.
Fresh face, please
However, in Saifuddin mahu muka baru tidak terlibat politik wang, rasuah, Utusan Malaysia quoted Umno supreme council member Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah as calling for a fresh face, who was not tainted by money politics, to be fielded in Bagan Pinang.
Additionally, in Bahaya jika masih wujud pemimpin Umno tak insaf, former Berita Harian group editor Rejal Arbee called on Umno to regain public confidence by fielding a competent, respected and acceptable candidate. He said if Umno fielded a tainted candidate, the people would ask, “Is Umno devoid of honest and competent leaders?”
In his commentary, he said some in Umno are still unrepentant, and by placing personal interests above everything else, would add to the declining support for the party.
“It is unfortunate for Umno that there are still some leaders who are unaware. The most important thing for them is their own position without caring how their actions would affect public opinion, especially among Malay [Malaysians], regarding a party which many feel has outlived its usefulness,” Rejab wrote.
Rejab argued that the BN and Umno could still improve their position if serious steps were taken. “The whole leadership and components of the BN and Umno must be willing to change and make the public and national interest the top priority. Leaders who are not ready to change and serve the people, and not just their own interests, must be removed. This is the only way to ensure that Umno remains relevant and for it to regain the support and trust of the people,” he concluded.
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