While my subject was on the inadvisability of royal activism in politics, I also mentioned that there were two monumental blunders in recent Malaysian political strategies. I had then written:
The first was when Dr Mahathir Mohamad, then as prime minister, wanted to outflank PAS' growing influence among the pious in the Malay heartland. He did so by declaring Malaysia as an Islamic nation, diametrically opposite to Tunku Abdul Rahman's earlier declaration that Malaysia was a secular state which upheld Islam as the nation's official religion.
Whatever good motive he might have in his manoeuvre to politically pre-empt PAS, he introduced a new element into the Malaysian judicial system, one that was and still is unwelcomed by non-Muslims.
Yes, as I had written, … By taking such a constitutionally radical step to neutralise PAS, he opened, what non-Muslims would call, a Pandora's Box, one which he couldn't close back again. From thence, he gradually gave in to the genie he unwittingly released.
We cannot accept the usual argument that only Muslims would be affected because Madam Kaliammal, wife of the late Moorthy (he of the body snatching case) was deeply affected and severely traumatised - and so were other non-Muslims in similar predicament.
Since then there has been an erosion of the supremacy of civil laws.
Four years ago I wrote in a previous post SUHAKAM Chairman: "Civil Court Judges Lack Balls" that Abu Talib Othman, the chairman of SUHAKAM and former Attorney-General in Dr Mahathir’s government, the very man who had drafted the contentious Article 121 (1)(A) in 1988, severely criticized the timidity of the civil courts in interpreting the constitutional rights [and limitations] of the syariah courts in the Moorthy case.
Abu Talib blamed the civil courts for lacking the balls to interpret the provisions according to the intentions of the proponents [of the Constitution].
When human rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz told him about civil court judges who admit to being Muslims first, Abu Talib advised him to report the matter and if there was evidence, those judges should be removed.
He said: “They are unfit to be judges, then. Judges should remember their constitutional oath to protect and uphold the Federal Constitution as the supreme law of the land.”
Yesterday we read that Three women [were] caned for extramarital sex in accordance with the sentences passed down by the syariah courts.
There was also the case of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno who was also sentenced to six strokes of the cane for drinking beer.
It’s not for me to question the decisions of the syariah courts … UNLESS … these had been against the civil laws.
Malaysian civil laws do not permit women to be caned. Additionally, in accordance with the civil law, a person cannot be caned by the prison authorities unless that person is a prisoner.
Kartika wasn't a prisoner, yet it has been reported that prison authorities had averred they were waiting for instructions from the syariah court to conduct the caning on her ... and presumably to f* with the civil laws of the nation.
So how, Minister? Haven't civil laws been violated?
The greater shame of the Home Minister has been that he allowed the illegal sentencing to be carried out secretly, yes, secretly as if he had been ashamed of the very actions of his own ministry.
Hishamuddin had the gall to say [as reported by MKINI]: "The punishment is to teach and give a chance to those who have fallen off the path to return and build a better life in future," ..... adding that none of the three sustained any injuries.
To recap, the secret caning of the women had been illegal in accordance with Malaysian civil laws.
Hishamuddin was too afraid or embarrassed to be upfront with those punishments. I bet if he could distance himself from ownership of the decision to proceed with the punishment he would have done so.
But alas, civil laws as we used to know it have become a victim of political opportunism and a faint heart.
And shouldn’t we apply Abu Talib’s admonition of those civil court judges to Hishamuddin as well, as in: