Brunei the oil rich kingdom will start enforcing Sharia law in 2014, the sultan of the Islamic kingdom announced Tuesday. Possible punishments would include flogging for alcohol consumption and stoning to death for adulterers.
The new criminal law would start in April, said Hassanal Bolkiah the 67-year old sultan, who is one of the wealthiest people in the world. He has presided over the kingdom’s shift to anti sedition and more conservative Islam laws over recent years.
Power in the country is concentrated in its monarchy and no elections are held. The sultan said that Allah the Almigthy was generous to create laws to be utilized to obtain justice. Bolkiah is also the prime minister for the kingdom.
A number of crimes that fall under the new Sharia code maintain a high burden of proof. The judges in Sharia court also have discretion over the forms of punishment which also could include amputations for being caught stealing.
The small kingdom, which has the highest per capita income in Southeast Asia after Singapore, has for years been preparing for the introduction of the Sharia penal code.
The sultan in the past has said criminal Sharia law should work alongside civil law.
Brunei is the neighbor of two states of Malaysia on Borneo Island. It only has a population of 400,000 and already enforces the Islamic teachings sterner than Indonesia and Malaysia, the two other majority Muslims nations in Southeast Asia.
No alcohol is allowed to be sold and evangelism by any other religion is forbidden.
The sultan said the government’s policies would not be touched by the Sharia criminal law change. This was possibly a nod to make foreign investors more comfortable.
The nation’s oil reserves should run out in just two decades. The government has therefore embarked on a strategy promoting tourism, manufacturing and halal products.