Apostasy ruling: State Syariah ordinance to be amended within six months, says CM

Abang Johari speaks to reporters after declaring open St Joseph International School's new building.

KUCHING, March 3: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg today said he will amend the Sarawak Syariah Court Ordinance 2001 within six months to address administrative complications faced by converts upon leaving their Muslim faith.

Admitting that there were weaknesses in the current Syariah law and the court, he told reporters that he felt compassion for the converts who were trying to leave their Muslim faith, and were left hanging due to the loophole in the current law.

Because of that, he said, their application to update their MyKad and other registrations were also left in limbo.

He explained that currently, there is no judicial power to declare that the converts have left their faith, hence leaving them hanging and their application to change the information on their identification cards could not proceed.

“Because I pity them, they left their Muslim faith, then there is no judicial power declaring so. So there will be problems with updating their MyKad for example. There must be a court ruling saying he or she (converts) is no longer a Muslim so that applications to update their MyKad and other registrations can proceed without any complications.

“If left hanging, their application (will) also (be) left hanging like that. This is just an administration issue. There are solutions to this.

“Give me six months,” Abang Johari told a press conference after officiating at the official opening of St Joseph International School’s new school building this morning.

Earlier in his speech during the opening ceremony, he warned religious extremists and champion-wannabes especially from outside, that Sarawak will exercise its immigration law to deal with them if they caused trouble in the state.

Abang Johari said their actions were unacceptable in Sarawak where its religious demographics, featuring not only Muslims but also those from other faiths as well, can get together and go about their daily lives together without any issues.

“There have been a few incidents happening earlier (last Tuesday), that is why we must exercise our immigration law. Extremists are not allowed to come to Sarawak. I am continuing that exercise, especially against those from from across (Peninsular Malaysia). Over there, when one side says something, the other side will respond, then vice versa, then small issues become big.

“In Sarawak we have a very good society. Where else can you find Christian and Muslim families sitting at a table together for dinner? You cannot disunite our family. This is the basis of how we live.

“Yes I admit that there are weaknesses in our Syariah law. I will amend it. If there are problems, we have solutions. It can be solved. But not through these people who want to be champions that would make things more complicated. If you want to be a champion, you actually just want people’s attention. That is the problem in our society today – because of lack of understanding.

“Fortunately we in Sarawak have good understanding among each other,” he said.

On Tueday, the Federal Court here ruled that the Syariah Court had the jurisdiction to hear apostasy cases. Following the hearing, a ruckus took place at the courthouse where a group of shouting unruly youths attempted to surround and intimidate the Catholic Archbishop of Kuching Fr Simon Poh. A group of people including Muslims quickly formed a protective cordon around the archbishop and escorted him to safety. Photos and videos of the incident have gone viral online and on social media channels.

Lawyer and state PKR chairman Baru Bian who represented the four appellants has also received death threats over the matter and been accused of converting Muslims. — DayakDaily