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Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories)(Amendment) Bill 2005  – Are Shahrizat and Abdullah Zin  Ministers in the same Cabinet?



Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

Parliament, Tuesday): The sky-high praise for the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Amendment Bill 2005, describing it as “cantik sugguh” (“just perfect”),   by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Dr. Abdullah Md Zin  in “The Sunday Interview” of New Sunday Times on New Year’s Day raises the question whether he and the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil are Ministers in the same cabinet!

This is because both are not only talking at cross-purpose, but in clear contradiction of each other, on the controversial Family Law (Federal Territories) Amendment Bill 2005 and particularly on  its five contentious provisions which seriously erode the  status of Muslim women and the sanctity of the  family institution.


On the same day the Senate was  arm-twisted by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Nazri Aziz to “toe the line” to pass the Bill on December 22, 2005, Shahrizat had said that the Cabinet was   aware of the discriminatory clauses and had on August 17, 2005  given conditional approval for the Bill to be passed to ensure standardisation of syariah laws in all the states.

Shahrizat said the Cabinet had agreed that the law should be amended after it had been passed. She said her Ministry had earlier objected to all the clauses of the Bill, which discriminated against women.


This however was not the understanding of Abdullah Zin who in the interview blamed women senators and women groups for “being too emotional” and failing to distinguish between “laws and implementation”.


The following Q&A in  the Abdullah Zin interview  is very revealing:

Q: It has also been said that the implementation of Islamic laws is biased
against women.

A: I do agree that they can be improved. What I just don't agree with is the
way people are venting their anger against the amendments when, in fact,
they are actually upset over the implementation of the law.

Laws and implementation are totally different things. We can improve on
implementation in the FT but at state level, religious matters are under the
purview of the state religious authorities and the Sultan.

On our part, we have organised courses for Syariah judges to ensure they are well-versed in the law.


A full and proper clarification should emanate from the Cabinet tomorrow, whether the Cabinet commitment which Shahrizat had talked about concerned immediate and wide-ranging  amendments to the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories)(Amendment) Bill 2005 or basically about  implementation of the law, apart from some “minor” amendments?


A very bad precedent had been set whereby Barisan Nasional MPs were  told to “toe the line” where  “they are free to debate and speak their mind, but when it comes to a vote, they have to follow”, which is completely against the spirit and call by the Prime Minister for an  end to the “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” Malaysian malaise!


The Prime Minister has the opportunity to put things right by getting full Cabinet endorsement tomorrow  for a new policy whereby MPs are allowed to vote according to their conscience on moral and  social issues.

The Cabinet should realize  that  the parliamentary farce on the  passage of  the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories)(Amendment) Bill should not be compounded and that the best solution in the circumstances is 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 appropriate amendments to protect the status  and rights of Muslim women and the family institution.


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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