Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of national unity, Joseph Kurup, was recently quoted as warning that Sabah and Sarawak may go “separate ways” if Parliament passes Syariah amendments tabled by Abdul Hadi Awang.

It is one thing the statement coming from Joseph Kurup and another to make a non-sequitur fallacy out of the Private Member’s Bill tabled by Hadi. What do the Syariah Court punishments have to do with Sabah and Sarawak being a part of Malaysia?

The Syariah Court was there before Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaysia and still remains so. Hence, to say that Sabah and Sarawak will part ways due to changes in the maximum sentences that can be carried out by the syariah court seems to be a personal view of Kurup.

Why personal? Because Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) having only one seat cannot possibly represent the entire Borneo. Syariah is a matter for the sultans and the Yang Di-Pertuan Agung to decide, not for one minister representing one virtually unknown party in Sabah.

If Sabah and Sarawak really leave the federation, then the blame should be put on Kurup as he is in charge of national unity. The fact is that under Kurup, national unity is at its worst. It seems that he is shifting the blame for his failure to unite the country to the Private Member’s Bill.

He seems to be trying to shift the attention of media from his failure in uniting the country to a non-existent issue. Kurup created a straw man and is fighting it so that he can show he is doing something, when in reality Kurup doing something is not something that exists.

To “threaten” that Sabah and Sarawak will leave the federation because of amendments to the syariah offences enactment is a serious issue as it is a very seditious statement. Suggesting a state to leave a country is a kin to threatening the sovereignty of a country. This statement in itself shows that Kurup is no longer fit to be in the cabinet. How can someone entrusted to unite the nation make statements that are seditious and cause disunity?

In the Sedition Act 1948, one of the definitions of a seditious tendency is:

3 (1) (ii) to point out, with a view to their removal, any matters producing or having a tendency to produce feelings of ill will and enmity between different races or classes of the population of the Federation, if the act, speech, words, publication or other thing has not otherwise in fact a seditious tendency.

This offence of making such a statement can be charged under Section 4(1) of the sedition act for saying such things,

4 (1) Any person who – (a) does or attempts to do, or makes any preparation to do, or conspires with any person to do, any act which has or which would, if done, have a seditious tendency; (b) utters any seditious words;

shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable for a first offence to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both.

‘Creating ill will’

In this case it is clear that Kurup is creating ill will between the people of Borneo against the federation via his speech. How does one claim to be in charge of national unity and yet come up with such statements is an oxymoron.

Kurup should not interfere with the affairs of the Muslims, and neither should he threaten to part the nation. Given the performance of his party in the general election, he does not have much to show for, what more to be a voice for the people of Borneo.

It would be better for him to know that his single seat in the Parliament will not affect anything. Probably that is why he did not threaten to resign, because he and his party cannot afford to do so.

rehanahmadWhy interfere in the issues pertaining another religion? It is something that you yourself would not want. If affairs of Muslims can be interfered by non-Muslims then the opposite should also be true. In case they are not ready to accept that, then they should refrain from doing what they should not have done in the first place.

For what Kurup did, it is his high time for him to be sacked from the cabinet and for investigation to be launched into him under Sedition Act. Not acting on him will encourage others to speak the same language as him and will seriously jeopardise the nation.

REHAN AHMAD JAMALUDDIN AHMAD is president, Intellectual Wisdom Society.