Source: News Bharati English28 May 2016 16:17:37

Malaysia, May 28: Prime Minister Najib Razak's Government has thrown its support in parliament behind an Islamic penal code that includes amputations and stoning, shocking some of his allies and stoking fears of further strains in the multi-ethnic country.

  • Key points:
  • Malaysia's Government supports a penal code with harsh penalties including stoning and amputation
  • The bill is unlikely to pass parliament but is seen as a bid to deflect from the PM's corruption scandal
  • Parties representing minority Chinese and Indian voters warn it could stoke inter-racial tensions

Critics believe the scandal-tainted Prime Minister is using “hudud”, the Islamic law, to shore up the backing of Muslim Malay voters and fend off attacks on his leadership ahead of critical by-elections next month and a general election in 2018.

The Government on Thursday unexpectedly submitted to parliament a hudud bill that had been proposed by the Islamist group Parti Islam se-Malaysia's (PAS). [It's] what we refer to as enhanced punishment ... and is only applicable to the Muslims. It has nothing to do with non-Muslims.

Although debate on the law was deferred to October by PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang, its submission to parliament brought criticism from leaders across the political spectrum, including allies of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, who represent the ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.

Najib sought to ease tensions with his allies on Friday, saying the bill was "misunderstood".

“It’s not hudud, but what we refer to as the enhanced punishment,” he told a news conference after meeting leaders of his ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party.

“It applies only to certain offences and this comes under the jurisdiction of the Syariah court and is only applicable to the Muslims. It has nothing to do with non-Muslims.”

He added that the punishments would be limited and canings meted out under the law would not injure or draw blood.

Most of the Southeast Asian country's states implement sharia, the Islamic legal system, but its reach is restricted by federal law.

Still, the hudud bill appears doomed as the UMNO-led coalition lacks the two-thirds majority needed to pass it into law.

PM eyeing polls, critics say: Critics say that Najib with an eye on by-elections for two parliamentary seats on June 18, is seeking to appease the majority Muslim vote bank with his stand on hudud and to and to deflect attention from a multi-billion-dollar scandal at the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

They allege Najib was a beneficiary of 1MDB's funds, after about $US680 million ($946 million) was deposited in his bank account before a 2013 election.

The allegations were examined in a Four Corners program in March, which resulted in the arrest of reporter Linton Besser and camera operator Louie Eroglu.

Najib has denied any wrongdoing.

“Najib did not want the 1MDB global scandal to become the issue in both by-elections,” said Lim Kit Siang, parliamentary leader of the Democratic Action Party, adding that Najib has ensured the focus will now be on hudud.