Najib drops Shariah bill in slap to Islamists

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Screen grab of PAS flag with Hudud signage

The Government of Prime Minister Najib Razak has made it official: It is dropping the Bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act or RUU 355.

The shocker came after Najib made the official statement, pointing out the Barisan Nasional (BN) government will stick to the principle of consensus.

Najib, who is the BN chairman, said it will remain a Private Member’s Bill and its fate now rests in the hands of the Speaker of the Parliament.

In an immediate response, MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said it was a good decision by Barisan.

“Barisan still sticks to the spirit of consensus,” he said, adding that MCA strongly opposes the Bill.

The Private Member’s Bill was first tabled by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, which seeks to grant syariah courts the power to impose stiffer penalties on all crimes except those with the death sentence.
The government’s decision to abandon its quest to please the PAS and pull them as an ally in the next General Elections was apparently made during last Friday’s Cabinet deliberations.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai last Friday said the Cabinet did not discuss the Federal Government-led Syariah Courts (Criminal Juris­dic­tion) Act amendments at its meeting, sparking rumours that it was off the table.

“There’s no new development on the RUU 355 Bill. It was not brought up in today’s meeting,” Liow said to the local media.

The Islamists had long campaigned that the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) was a changed party that was willing to walk the ‘Islamic talk’, hence it was a better bet to get the Shariah voted in.
This turnaround by Najib, predicted by The Independent in Op-Ed’s last month, is a real test for the PAS.