Syariah Penal Code not new to Brunei

IMG-20131027-01378Abdul Azim Kassim
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

ENFORCEMENT of the Syariah Penal Code has been in place since the 1600s despite being disconnected by the arrival of an official British Resident in 1906, said an Usuluddin lecturer at the Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) yesterday.

Ustaz Hj Ahmad Abdussalam Hj Abd Rahman said the present gazette of the Syariah Penal Code was merely a continuation of a law which was abruptly halted.

Ustaz Hj Ahmad Abdussalam presented his research paper titled “Syariah Penal Code Order 2013 in Brunei Darussalam: A Preliminary Review” at an open lecture on Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) yesterday.

Ustaz Hj Ahmad Abdussalam Hj Abd RahmannsformedThe presentation included a historical overview of the implementation of the code before and after Brunei gained independence up until the re-introduction of the law on October 22 last year.

He said the development of the code began even before the 1600s.

“The (earliest) documented writing in history of the Syariah Penal Code was during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Hasan (1582-1598), the ninth Sultan of Brunei,” he said.

“The code however was only fully enforced and exercised during the reign of Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akhbar (1598-1658).”

Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akhbar had written in his will for his son, Sultan Abdul Jalilul Jabbar (1659-1660), to keep the Syariah Penal Code alive.

Ustaz Hj Ahmad Abdussalam also provided a few foreign accounts of the code being implemented between 1658 and 1900s.

For instance, in 1856, Spencer St John, an English consul, witnessed with his own eyes, two thieves getting their hands severed for stealing.

He also cited a testament from William Hood Treacher (1891), acting General British Consul who had come to Brunei in 1871.

Treacher had reported that some goods were stolen from his ship, to Sultan Abdul Momin (1852-1885).

A few days later, he received the stolen items accompanied by a letter from the Sultan saying the three thieves responsible for the theft had been sentenced and punished.

Treacher also noted the code did not discriminate a person’s background.

He recorded the hanging of a man named Maidin who had robbed and killed traders traveling between Labuan and Brunei.

He was a son of an important person who was also favoured by the Sultan. Yet, his connection did not save him from execution after being found guilty for his crimes.

However, the arrival of the British colonial empire in 1906 brought a shift to the legislation of Brunei.

Ustaz Hj Ahmad Abdussalam said the Syariah Penal Code was abolished with the appointment of a British Resident in Brunei.

“With this (the position), the British representatives had a bigger hand in the governance and management of Brunei including the legislation and judiciary matters,” the invited lecturer told the audience at the university.

A petition to retain the Syariah Penal Code was rejected on the basis that the British sought to improve the local customs and laws to prevent further loss of Brunei’s territories.

The introduction of the civil courts in 1908 further eroded the code’s use in the Sultanate.

“With the (courts’) establishment, the English laws became even stronger and more influential, and it began to replace Islamic laws in Brunei as even the usage (of the Syariah Penal Code) was restricted.”

The talk was organised by the Centre for Promotion of Knowledge and Language of UNISSA at the academic institution.

The Brunei Times
Sunday, January 12, 2014

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