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MCA against merging common law and syariah courts

KUALA LUMPUR, 19 Nov 2008: The MCA does not agree with the idea of merging the syariah and common law courts as it could result in the syariah being used to govern non-Muslims.

The party’s legal bureau chairperson Datuk Leong Tang Chong said in a statement today that the proposed merger would “compel and subject non-Muslims to syariah jurisdiction”.

“There is no need to merge the two courts in order to resolve cases of conflicting laws and jurisdiction of both courts arising from inter-faith cases.

“There is no conflict when the judges in the civil courts exercise independence in interpreting the laws according to common law principles,” Leong said.

He was responding to retired chief justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad’s comment that he foresaw the merging of the common law and syariah courts in the future. He said syariah courts in Malaysia had already absorbed certain common law principles that were not contrary to Islam.

Leong said the MCA upholds the position that Islam is the country’s official religion. However, he added, because the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land, civil courts therefore fall under common law jurisdiction.

“To merge the courts would undermine that position of the civil courts. The administration will inevitably use syariah principles to interpret civil laws,” Leong said.

He said the problem in the supposed “conflict of jurisdiction” arose because “civil court judges are currently abdicating their powers and refusing to rule accordingly”. He said cases were “put on hold” indefinitely, resulting in complications.

Leong said the solution is not to merge the two legal systems, but to have a more multi-racial and multi-religious judiciary.

“Merging the two courts will open even more complications and misinterpretation resulting in more religious misunderstanding among the races and religions.

“MCA states its firm stand that we do not agree with the suggestion to merge the two systems as it will undermine the religious rights of non-Muslims as enshrined in Article 11 of the Federal Constitution. MCA will strongly object any attempts by anyone to take away the religious freedom of the non-Muslims,” Leong said.

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