KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 4 – It may have taken just six minutes and six strokes of the cane, but the punishment meted out to two women over “same-sex relations” at the Kuala Terengganu Syariah High Court yesterday has created a storm of controversy in the country barely four months into the so-called Malaysia Baru.
Politicians, civil society, lawyers, human rights NGOs and activists have all weighed in on the issue and though the majority are outraged that the incident had taken place, there are voices from even Pakatan Harapan who have supported the court’s action.
Terengganu Amanah released a statement of support yesterday with its communications director Mohd Hasbie Muda brushing off the criticisms against the court’s action as merely being due to the fact it was the first time such a punishment was carried out in public.
“Terengganu Amanah is of the view that such punishments are necessary to curtail the spread of homosexual intercourse and to prevent it from becoming widespread in the state.
“We hope no one would politicise this issue since it is already stipulated in the Syariah Criminal Offences (Takzir) (Terengganu) Enactment 2001,” he said.
‘Government does not recognise LGBT’
Terengganu Pakatan Harapan chief Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah also came out in defence of the caning, condemning reports which claimed that the state opposition had been against the punishment.
According to Kamarul, a statement dated Aug 3 had been circulating on social media claiming that the Harapan-led federal government recognises LGBT in the country.
“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 this group, 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.
Public caning a matter of technicality
Mujahid, who is the minister in charge of Islamic religious affairs, weighed in on the caning only questioning if it should be done in the presence of so many people.
Speaking after at an event yesterday, Mujahid said “it is a matter of technicality and can be debated”.
“The provision must be looked into, whether the (general) public can be present. Just having two or three officials present can be considered as the public.”
Mujahid added that he had followed the developments in the case, and believed that everything was done according to the law.
“I understand that they pleaded guilty to committing the offence of ‘muhasaqah’ (same-sex relations between women).
“They were given 14 days to appeal, and they did not.”
He said he was told that the punishment was meted out in accordance with Islamic and local laws.
According to The Star, the sentence was conducted behind closed doors in the courtroom after it was read out by Syariah High Court Judge Kamalruazmi Ismail.
State Syariah chief judge Wan Mohd Zakri Wan Mohd and state senior syariah judge Rosdi Harun were also present when two female officers from the Kajang Women’s prison carried out the sentence in turns.
The older woman, aged 32, was said to have held her own when the cane hit her back and did not wince, however, the younger woman, aged 22, started to sob when the cane hit her.
About 150 people witnessed the caning, including 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 the state Bar Council.
Terengganu Bar Council Chairman Sallehudin Harun, who represented the Bar Council said he will prepare a short report on the caning and present it to the Bar Council.
“Today’s sentence will give the real picture about Syariah caning.
“We imagined that it would be forceful but after seeing it today, it puts the Syariah court in a positive light and this issue shouldn’t be exaggerated.
“The sentencing went smoothly and did not cause the accused any harm,” he was quoted as saying by the daily.