PKR: Unifor, Jais need to formulate SOP for apostasy cases

Simon Siah

KUCHING, Feb 28: State PKR deputy youth chief Simon Siah is calling on the Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) to work together with Jabatan Agama Islam Sarawak (Jais) and other interested parties to formulate a standard operation procedure (SOP) to address apostasy cases in Sarawak.

Siah explained that the four apostasy cases which was ruled upon by the Federal Court yesterday came about because the appellants were at a dead end and they all only desired for a quick outcome to move on with their lives.

“However, the system itself does not permit so. First, when they approached Jais, they were asked to go for counselling sessions and most of the applicants did comply.

“The counselling requirements varied from person to person. Some of them were required to go for up to 12 sessions of counselling over a period of three years, some only one session.

“Then questionable requirements were again imposed on them such as counselling in Sibu was insufficient and only counselling sessions in Kuching headquarters were acceptable. Thereafter, they were made to wait for years before their applications through Jais was approved,” said Siah.

He said even after that, the National Registration Department (NRD) would not make it easy for the appellants and required that they go to the Syariah Court to get the Court order to change their religion from Islam to Christianity.

“However, the applicants were told by the Syariah Court that the Court has no jurisdiction to hear such cases.

“This was the main basis why the cases had to be brought before the civil court for decision as the door was closed to the applicants even in the Syariah Court. Brick walls were built all around these applicants who are stuck in this legal quandary,” said Siah.

He pointed out that Halaqah Kemajuan Muslim Sarawak (Hakim) in a statement stated that the right forum is the Syariah Court and an apostate could change their official religion only after they have fulfilled the requirements to satisfy the Syariah courts on the status of their religion.

“Hakim should then enquire with the Syariah courts too what the requirements are for them to change their religion. Is there currently a list of requirements or a standard operating procedure for them to change their religion? Are non-Muslim lawyers allowed to represent these applicants in the Syariah Court in Sarawak?” asked Siah in a statement today.

Siah said rather than creating more obstacles for the applicants, all relevant departments should work together to tear down these walls and work together to ensure such applications are processed properly according to detailed working procedures.

He said this in response to the apostasy case of four Muslims who wanted to convert to Christianity and brought their cases to the Federal Court.

The Federal Court yesterday ruled that the four cases were to be heard in the Syariah Court and struck out the appeal to have the cases heard in the civil court.

The five-member panel of judges unanimously agreed that the case had no merit and that even though there was no provision in the Sarawak Syariah Court Ordinance, there were still some sections of the law in the Majlis Islam Sarawak Ordinance that could be deployed by the Syariah Court to hear the apostasy cases. — DayakDaily