http://dapmalaysia.org Forward Feedback
for the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) (Amendment) Bill 2005
should be withheld to send it back to Parliament for amendment to the five
contentious provisions which further undermined status of Muslim women and
the family institution
Although the Women, Family and Community Minister, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil has reiterated that she will meet the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) to ensure that amendments will be made to the controversial Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) (Amendment) Bill 2005, this can be no excuse and justification for insisting that a patently defective bill should be made into law first and amended later.
Shahrizat had said that her Ministry had objected to almost all the clauses in the Bill, more than those raised by the NGOs in their memorandum to her, and that the Cabinet on August 17 had given conditional approval for the Bill to be tabled. It decided that immediately after it becomes law, Jakim must take the necessary steps to amend all discriminatory clauses.
This is a most irresponsible manner of law-making. If not for the campaign and media conference by Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAGGE) protesting against the five contentious amendments which further undermined the status of Muslim women and the family institution two days before the Senate debate, resulting in an united protest by 12 women Senators, the Bill would have passed the Senate without much ado, just as it had passed the Dewan Rakyat on September 26.
The question that cries out for answer is why UMNO and Barisan Nasional women MPs fully supported the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) (Amendment) Bill 2005 when it was debated in the Dewan Rakyat on September 22 and 26. Didn’t Shahrizat brief them about her Ministry’s objections “more than those raised by the NGOs”, so that they could express their opposition instead of giving full-hearted support?
In fact, the thrust of the two-day debate on the Bill in September was whether the amendments would make it difficult for Muslim husbands to exercise their rights of polygamy, with NGOs, particularly Sisters-in-Islam coming under specific attack for promoting “Western concepts” of gender equality.
The only MPs who spoke up against the amendments as further undermining the status of Muslim women and the family institution were the three DAP women MPs – Teresa Kok (Seputeh), Fong Po Kuan (Batu Gajah) and Chong Eng (Bukit Mertajam).
Teresa Kok and Fong Po Kuan even made specific proposals to protect the status of Muslim women and the family institution at the policy debate during the second reading as well as at the committee stage to no avail.
The Hansard (parliamentary reports) of the two-day debate on the Bill on Sept. 22 and 26 is worth study by all Malaysians.
The Islamic Law (Federal Territories) (Amendment) Bill furore has ended the second year of the 11th Parliament on a sour note – highlighting the great distance that must be traversed if Malaysia is to have a First-World Parliament.
The directive issued by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Nazri Aziz that Senators “are free to debate and speak their mind, but when it comes to a vote, they have to follow” sums up in a nutshell all that is wrong with the Malaysian Parliament – where MPs in the ruling coalition cannot even abstain if they feel strongly enough against any particular Bill.
The Islamic Law (Federal Territories) (Amendment) Bill was tabled for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat on September 21 and it was debated on the very next day on Sept. 22.
This is in breach of the undertaking given by Nazri when the 11th Parliament opened in May 2004 after the March general election that MPs would always be given adequate time to study Bills before they are debated.
With the furore over the Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Amendment Bill, Malaysians are entitled to wonder whether after more than two years of the premiership of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Malaysian Parliament is going forward or backwards in its journey towards a First World Parliament.
The only way to redeem this disgraceful episode of law-making involving Parliament and the Executive is for the Cabinet at its first meeting in the new year to recommend the withholding of the Royal Assent for the Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Amendment Bill to return it to both Houses of Parliament for reconsideration and amendments to protect the status and rights of Muslim women and the family institution.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman