Anwar: Wrong to cane women but we can’t do anything

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Caning stick

KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 5 – Condemning the caning of two women at the Kuala Terengganu Syariah High Court on Monday, PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar said however, that there was nothing the Pakatan Harapan-led federal government could do about it, Malaysiakini reported.

He said this was due to the clear separation between Putrajaya and state governments as to the enactment of Islamic law, which is under the respective state jurisdictions.

“The sentence was not accepted by most Malaysians as it was done without proper due process, understanding and show of compassion.

“What happened in Terengganu under the Islamic party government was completely under state laws which (the federal government) is not in the position to influence or change,” he was quoted as saying by the news portal. Anwar was speaking at a press conference in Makati City, Philippines.

He was asked to comment on the caning of the two women, aged 32 and 22, in the presence of about 150 people for having had “same-sex relations”.

The witnesses to the caning included state exco chairman of Syariah implementation, education and higher education Satiful Bahri Mamat, Kuala Terengganu MP Ahmad Amzad Hashim and State Assembly Speaker Yahaya Ali.

Also present were members of the Terengganu Syariah Lawyers Association and state Bar Council Chairman Sallehudin Harun.

‘Don’t cane, just explain and educate’ 

Anwar, who is also Pakatan Harapan defacto leader, told media that the two women should have been given adequate explanation, exposure and education (on Islam) instead of being caned.

“Unless they did harm in terms of a public display of some sexual acts.

“But this, again, relates to the earlier question about the narrow interpretation of religious laws which I don’t share. I am a practising Muslim, and I don’t share that interpretation,” he was quoted as saying.

Putrajaya cannot interfere

Anwar’s comments come in the wake of a statement by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong, who holds the law portfolio. Liew admitted that the caning of the two women was out of Putrajaya’s jurisdiction.

“The federal government cannot interfere. The breach of Syariah law by the two women and the subsequent punishment of caning are under the state jurisdiction and federal government cannot interfere in the exercise of state authority.

“Item 1 list II of the ninth schedule of the Federal Constitution clearly states that the exercise of state jurisdiction on Islamic matters provided therein is a state matter, therefore, federal government cannot interfere in state jurisdiction,” Liew said in a press release.

He also reminded the people that Terengganu is currently controlled by PAS, which is not part of Pakatan Harapan.

Lobby state legislature

Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad weighed in on the controversial punishment asking for people to lobby the state government to change the relevant Syariah enactments under the state.

“I would suggest people who don’t agree with the law, specifically those people in Terengganu, should take it up with their (state assembly person) and ask for a move to bring about an amendment, for it to be modified so the caning is not being done in public.

“Let the debate carry on in (state assembly) where it should,” the Malay Mail quoted the Amanah communications director as saying.

Yesterday, it was reported that Terengganu Pakatan Harapan chief Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah had come out in defence of the caning, and condemned reports which claimed that the state opposition had been against the punishment.

“As stated by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa in last week’s Dewan Negara sitting, the government has never recognised LGBT, what more their right to do forbidden acts.

“Terengganu Harapan abides by and does not oppose any punishment required by Islam since it is already provided in law.

“However, we regret that it has been politicised by certain parties to portray as though Harapan opposes it (the caning) from being carried out,” Kamarul was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini.

-NMT