source: The Star

MALAYSIA has never been declared a secular nation despite having secular laws, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz.

The Federal Constitution, he said, made no mention of the word secular.

He said that when replying to John Fernandez (DAP-Seremban), who wanted to know if Malaysia was a secular state based on a Supreme Court decision in 1988.

Former Lord President Tun Mohamed Salleh Abas, in Che Omar bin Che Soh v Public Prosecutor (1988), stated that the term Islam in Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitu­­tion re­­ferred to acts relating to ritual and ceremonies and that laws governing the country were secular laws.

Nazri said the Supreme Court’s decision did not declare the country as a secular nation although ruling that secular laws were used based on Article 162 of the Constitution.

Nazri said the position of Islam as a federal religion was also noted in several provisions under the Con­stitution, which include the development and propagation of Islam amongst Muslims and that civil courts had no jurisdiction over the powers of Syariah courts.

“There is also the oath taken by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under Sche­dule Four to preserve Islam at all times,” he added.

Meanwhile, Human Resources Minister Datuk S. Subramaniam said the Government was looking into cancelling the discretionary powers of the minister to decide on cases of industrial disputes to be referred to the Industrial Court.

This, he said, was one of several proposals that the Government is looking at in its effort to ensure speedy disposal of industrial cases.

“Discussions are being held with the affected parties to decide on the best systems to be implemented in future to ensure justice for the workers,” he said when replying to Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau).

The Government, he said, was keeping an open mind on the proposal so that aggrieved workers need not wait long to take their cases to industrial courts.

“Also being considered is the introduction of a key performance indicator where cases brought to the Industrial Courts must be settled within a year,” he said.

At present, he said more than 2,500 cases of industrial disputes were still waiting for the approval from the minister before they could be taken to the court.