By Azlan Othman
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday saw the need for Islamic Law to be implemented soon, which the monarch had mooted 15 years ago, and wanted Islamic and Civil Laws to run concurrently.
In a titah at the Brunei Islamic Religious Council meeting at the Legislative Council building, His Majesty also said the Islamic Criminal Act, if understood properly, is the best as it comes and created by Allah the Almighty and not mankind. "We should not delay it and instead grab such guidance positively," said the monarch.
"There are many responsibilities, be it to ourselves, Ummah, to the country and specifically to Allah the Almighty, which is the truth of all the responsibilities. Though it is our responsibility, it needs to be fulfilled for Allah the Almighty.
"Every individual is obliged to do good deeds which is the demand from Allah the Almighty. Does this mean that all these are for Him, more so the law, which is to control all problems in life, religion, descendants, mind and wealth.
"These form the basic for such a law to be formulated and implemented. To control these problems, we have been for so long using Syariah and Civil courts.
"These courts serve a single purpose, to control the problems and ways to uphold justice. I believe that as I've mentioned in my titah last March that the two judicial systems, Civil and Syarak, would not pose problems if they run in parallel or concurrently.
"Moreover, we have a beautiful way whereby any civil proceedings which are against Syarak would be adapted according to the Syarak besides bearing in mind that not all civil proceedings are contrary to Syarak. May be, this is rarely found elsewhere. And if it is true, then it is unique to Brunei," His Majesty said.
"Law is a knowledge and system, which is unique, very beautiful and certainly preferred when understood. If it's not understood, it would be hated. This is the rational behind the laws of Allah the Almighty.
"But since people do not want to understand it, the law is seen as bad and frightening. Praise to Allah the Almighty, we are guided by Him to see clearly the beauty of the law.
"What else is there to wait for? We already have a magnificent court building, many experts have been produced and that the nation has achieved its independence. What else?" asked His Majesty.
"Syarie judges are already many. They are all qualified compared to the 50s and 60s era whereby Pehin-Pehin Khatib also became a judge or assistant to judge.
"I once mentioned in my birthday titah in July 1996 on the formation of a Syariah Court of Law at the highest level to handle not only family law administration but also whenever appropriate Islamic Criminal Act.
"At that time, people's focus was mainly on the appropriate and reasonable time. Then, many time frames were mentioned like 10 years or eight years and so on. Now, 15 years have passed and people still say that we are not ready yet, not capable yet or there are still many matters to do, or preparations aren't enough or more time is needed, another eight or five years and so on.
"But when five or eight years have passed, people would still ask us to wait for another five or eight years. When will the waiting end? Do we still see ourselves in the 50s or 60s era?
"Do we forget that we have borrowed foreign experts from abroad for a long time, to be exact 20 years. Could we not (during such a long duration) resolve a Syariah Criminal Act?" His Majesty asked.
"I am still convinced if we want such a law to be implemented, it's not impossible. If we are not yet capable, do what we can do first.
"For instance, (enforce the law for) taking alcoholic drinks. If this is easy and can be carried out, then do it. We don't have to wait for 100 per cent enforcement. Anyone caught drinking alcohol or any intoxicating drink, if all Syarak evidence is adequate, then there is no reason for the law to be enforced.
"And if it is not enough or if there is an obstacle to carry out the Syarak Law, when such a case can be related to the early and original case, then it could be dealt with 'Takzir' (punishment) or its equivalent. The first or second punishment will follow Syarak.
"Can't we see that if this case is tackled in Syarak or equivalent to 'Takzir', then the opportunity to punish with lashes will be wide open. Strokes of rattan could make the person unconscious even though there are only two or three strokes compared to the lashes in accordance to Islam, which would not be like that.
"Is it not that if we immediately implement this Syarak Law, we could replace such incorrect sentencing with Allah's sentence, which is full of blessings and not sentencing introduced by mankind?
"If we keep on waiting, does this also mean that we have agreed with unjust sentencing that gives more suffering than what it should be. I am convinced that we can do it. But where is the act? If such an act been in place, why do we have to wait again? It needs to be discussed and decided soonest," said His Majesty.
"I give the mandate to the relevant agencies or institutions, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Brunei Islamic Religious Council, State Judiciary Department, AG's Chambers, Syariah Court Department and all parties to cooperate and deal collectively and transparently until the law comes to fruition.
"Cooperation from all parties is needed in any matter. In the legal or judicial aspect, we set up the State Judiciary Department in May 2002, followed by coordinating of administration for both Syariah and Civil effective July 2002.
"Even before the establishment of the State Judiciary Department, the cooperation has long existed. Among others, I was made to understand that when the Islamic Legal Unit at the Ministry of Religious Affairs completes any legal draft, which is in accordance to Islam, it is forwarded to the Attorney General to be checked.
"This is a good example of cooperation. Other cooperation could be implemented like a Syarie Judge in handling the cases could be assisted by a Civil Judge or otherwise. And in handling a Syarak criminal case, before it becomes a case, it needs to be assessed whether it meets the conditions before bringing it to Syarak court or otherwise.
"If it is not adequate, then it would become a civil case and if the offender is found guilty, he/she will face 'Takzir' (punishment) or its equivalent. This assessment could be done by setting up a panel of assessors which comprise certain parties from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, AG's Chambers, Brunei Islamic Religious Council and so on.
"In other words, the cooperation could still need Civil and an act on panel of assessors could be formulated by the Judiciary Department," said His Majesty.
"In a nutshell, both Syarak and Civil Laws could run concurrently and in parallel without affecting one another. This is the uniqueness of Brunei. May Allah the Almighty bless the nation with peace and stability," added the ruler.
Also present was His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office.
Earlier, the Minister of Religious Affairs, Pg Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad bin Pg Hj Abdul Rahman said the Brunei Islamic Religious Council is the supreme body in assisting His Majesty in upholding the purity of Islam in the country. Its members meet regularly and work earnestly to meet the aspiration of His Majesty for Islamic teachings to flourish and expand in the country. It is hoped that the aspiration would receive blessings from Allah the Almighty.
Besides members of the Islamic Religious Council, the meeting was also attended by the Attorney General, judges and senior officers from Civil and Syariah courts.
- Borneo Bulletin
(11th Octopber 2011)