KUALA LUMPUR: The courts had never declared Malaysia a secular nation although secular laws are used to govern the country, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz.
“Under the Federal Constitution, there is no mention of the word secular in it,” he said when replying a question raised John Fernandez (DAP-Seremban) Monday.
Fernandez 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 meant “only such acts as relate to rituals and ceremonies… the law in this country is … secular law.”
Nazri noted the 1988 Supreme Court’s decision in Che Omar did not declare the country as a secular nation although ruling that secular laws were used based on Article 162 of the Constitution.
He also noted the words used in context of Article 162 referred to laws that were passed prior to Independence and were stated as ‘existing laws’ rather than ‘secular laws’.
Earlier, Nazri said that the position of Islam as a federal religion was also noted in several provisions under the Constitution which included the development and spread of Islam amongst the Muslim community and that civil courts have no jurisdiction over the powers of the Syariah courts.
“There is also the oath taken by the Agong under Schedule Four to preserve Islam at all times,” he added.
He noted that this position differed from secular nations such as United States of America, India and Turkey where there was no official religion.
However, Lim Lit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur) maintained that three former Prime Ministers had referred to the Malaysia as a secular nation but Nazri questioned the source of his claims.
Later, during committee stage debates on the Supply Bill 2013, Lim insisted that former Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman was quoted in The Star that Malaysia was not an Islamic state during his 80th birthday celebrations in 1983.