PAS president Hadi Awang 'sad' over some Umno members' opposition to hudud

SINGAPORE - Malaysia's opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) president Abdul Hadi Awang said he was disappointed with some people within the ruling Umno party for opposing his party's move to push for hudud, or Islamic criminal law.

Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi noted that many non-Malay parties - including its ally, the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP) as well as parties aligned with Umno such as the Malaysian Indian Congress and the Malaysian Chinese Association - object to PAS's plan to implement hudud in the north-eastern state of Kelantan, which the party controls.

But he said he was "sad" that there has also been strong disapproval from even Malay-Muslim parties, such as Umno.

"If they (non-Muslim parties) oppose Islamic law, that is perhaps because the majority of them are not Muslim (parties)," Mr Abdul Hadi told a public lecture organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore's Nanyang Technological University.

"But what is sad is that people from the Malay-Muslim parties themselves - people from Umno - they are also the ones who have been strongly opposing the implementation of Islamic law by instilling fear among the Muslim Malay community that if Islamic Syariah is implemented, a lot of hands will be amputated and a lot of hudud penalties will be given out to the Malay-Muslim community," he added.

Hudud is a set of laws and punishments set in the Quran that allows for amputation and flogging, among other forms of punishment.

Earlier this month, former Malaysian prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad warned Umno against supporting hudud in Kelantan, questioning the political motives behind PAS's move.

While Umno lawmakers in Kelantan have openly backed the push for hudud - a move that analysts say is aimed at not offending the party's Malay vote base - the party at the national level has yet to publicly make clear its stance.

Mr Abdul Hadi will table a private member's Bill when the federal Parliament sits again on May 18 to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, also known as Act 355, to allow Kelantan to implement hudud.

PAS, however, needs bipartisan support from Umno and other federal lawmakers in order for the Bill to be passed.

PAS's attempt to install hudud has placed it under intense pressure from DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), its allies in the three-party Pakatan Rakyat alliance.

The move risks breaking up the alliance. DAP said in March it would no longer work with Mr Abdul Hadi, whom the DAP said broke a PAS pledge not to pursue hudud without consulting its alliance partners first.

PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail issued a statement in March to say her party's MPs would not support PAS's push.

The fallout almost scuttled the alliance's cooperation in an upcoming by-election for a seat held by jailed alliance leader Anwar Ibrahim. PAS's wing in Permatang Pauh, Anwar's vacated seat in Penang, had threatened to withdraw support for Dr Wan Azizah's bid for the seat in a four-cornered contest against the Barisan Nasional coalition, the Parti Rakyat Malaysia and independent candidate Salleh Isahak.

But last week, PKR’s deputy President Azmin Ali said the two parties agreed to put aside their disagreements on hudud and the issue would not affect PKR’s campaign in Permatang Pauh.

In his lecture in Singapore, Mr Abdul Hadi acknowledged that punishments under hudud were severe. But he pointed out the criteria to convict a person under hudud are stringent in most cases. For example, in the case of adultery, the accuser must produce four direct witnesses.

Mr Abdul Hadi said PAS was not seeking to force through its plans for hudud and had made efforts to educate the public about hudud's implementation through organising seminars with different political parties, non-government organisations, and representatives from different religions.

"It needs to be stressed here that the process of implementing the Syariah law is being done according to the democratic process. It is not being forced," he said.

idayus@sph.com.sg