Be wary of bogus Syariah enforcement officers, Brunei's public told

BRUNEI - Members of the public were reminded to be wary of imposters pretending to be religious enforcement officials enforcing the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013, and to report such incidents to the authorities.

The reminder came when a member of the Tiong Hwa community raised the issue during a Syariah law briefing at Dewan Sumbangsih in Beribi.

The imposters allegedly stopped several individuals at one of the shopping complexes in Gadong for wearing shorts and imposed fines. These individuals, scared, paid the fine. It was believed the fine was around $200.

Upon the implementation of the law, enforcement officials will carry identification badges and introduce themselves, said Attorney General's Chambers Counsel Hj Afif Ddaraina Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Hj Badaruddin, a panel speaker at the briefing.

He added that no fines will be imposed on the spot. Individuals will also first be investigated and tried in court before any penalty or punishment is imposed.

He also asked victims of fraud to come forward and report the case to the police for further action.

In a press statement, the Ministry of Religious Affairs yesterday stated that enforcement officers do not have the power to impose or collect fines under the Syariah Penal Code 2013.

"Each case must first be investigated, and only after the evidence presented by the prosecution is examined, then the judge will make the sentencing if found guilty. The panel also advised people who encountered the imposters to file a police report for investigation," the statement said.

Abuse of power by the enforcement officers was also raised at the briefing.

Religious enforcement officers are employees of the government and they are subjected to the provisions under Chapter 22 of the Penal Code (offence by or relating to public servants) for offences and punishments relating to government employees.

Some non-Syariah law related questions were also raised.

Director of Islamic Legal Unit Dato Seri Setia Hj Tasim Hj Akim said there is nothing wrong with Muslims attending private functions hosted by non-Muslims.

It fosters good values as well as relations and harmony among the communities. It is also not an offence for non-Muslims to invite their Muslim family members and friends for any celebrations as long as they (non-Muslims) are sensitive in ensuring that there are no elements that contradict with Islam and its teachings, he said.

The panel members also spoke about Syariah offences and punishments that apply to Muslims and non-Muslims.

The briefing was attended by Yang Berhormat Pehin Kapitan Lela Diraja Dato Paduka Goh King Chin and other prominent Chinese community members.

The first phase of the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013 will be implemented next month.