CENBET co-president Gan Ping Sieu: Time to legislate JAKIM for better governance and transparency, and mitigate risk of conflict between federal and states
Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Every so often, the role, jurisdiction and authority of the Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) becomes a topic of debate.

Its constitutional proprietary has long been questioned by prominent opinion leaders, constitutional lawyers, civil groups etc. There have been calls as to whether legislative initiatives should be taken to form a legally constituted federal Islamic administration agency, with clearly defined perimeter of power and jurisdiction, in conformity with the Federal Constitution.

JAKIM was first set up as Urusetia Majlis Kebangsaan Bagi Hal Ehwal Ugama Islam Malaysia in 1970 – basically as a secretariat to the National Council on Islamic Affairs, with an appreciable purpose to coordinate, improve and uniform laws and administration related to Islamic affairs, Syariah laws and Islamic education in the country.

JAKIM has since metamorphosed into a full-fledged Islamic affairs division in the Prime Minister’s Department with powers widened to incorporate planning and assisting State Islamic authorities in Islamic preaching (dakwah Islamiah) and Malaysia’s multi-lateral cooperation on global Islamic development. In short, it has turned from a primarily administrative coordinating function body, to one wielding immense powers and financial resources.

But the big question remains: Is it constitutional and has its role encroached onto the state power and jurisdiction with regard to Islamic affairs?

Needless to say, His Royal Highnesses the Rulers, with their constitutional function as the Head of State Islamic Affairs must be consulted.

In the perspective of constitutional arrangement, accountability and good governance, we support the need for legislation to spell out the role, power and function of JAKIM with precise jurisdiction so as to avoid the unnecessary conflict of federal and state power.

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