KUALA LUMPUR— Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin called today for the review of proposed punishments in PAS counterpart Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s Bill that would allow up to 30 years’ jail for Shariah offences.

Muhyiddin, who is Pagoh MP, said that Hadi’s private member’s Bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 must guarantee that those who break Shariah law, such as Muslim men who skip Friday prayers thrice consecutively, do not face excessive punishment since the Bill moots 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 lashes for Shariah offences.

“If my views are taken into account, I will have no problems supporting this Bill when it is debated and voted on in the coming Parliament meeting,” Muhyiddin said in a statement.

He said that the Bill only allows states to impose three types of punishments for Shariah offences: imprisonment, fines and whipping.

“The state legislative assemblies are unable to impose other kinds of punishments, such as making it compulsory to pray in the mosque for a certain time or doing community work for those who commit offences such as skipping Friday prayers or not fasting during Ramadan, which I believe is more suitable for educational purposes rather than imposing fines or jail terms,” said Muhyiddin.

The former deputy prime minister expressed concern that overzealousness would lead to excessive punishment that ignored justice in Islam, which he said would defame the religion itself.

“Therefore, it is appropriate that the shape and limit of punishments contained in the Bill be reviewed for improvement,” said Muhyiddin.

He also said he found Hadi’s Bill to be constitutional, since it did not create new offences but merely enhanced punishments for existing offences applicable only to Muslims. Shariah punishments are currently limited to three years’ jail, six strokes of the cane and RM5,000 fine.

“This Bill is also not a Bill to implement hudud laws in Malaysia. It’s just an amendment to the current law, like what was done in 1984 and 1989. The difference is before this, the amendments were done through government Bills, not a private member’s Bill,” said Muhyiddin.

Muhyiddin further proposed that the skills and professionalism of court officials, including judges, prosecutors and staff, be improved in the bid to empower the Shariah courts.

“For this purpose, the government must provide sufficient resources for the Shariah courts, be it finances, expertise or human resources. It’s time that the High Court syarie judges be no longer considered as civil servants, but a special scheme such as that for civil court judges be formed for syarie judges throughout Malaysia,” he said.

The Dewan Rakyat Speaker allowed Hadi to table his Bill last Thursday, but deferred debate to the next meeting in July.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had said earlier that the government would not be taking over Hadi’s Bill.