Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak on Tuesday struck a conciliatory note on the impending first-ever caning of a Muslim woman, an ex-model who was found drinking in public. He said she could appeal against the punishment and the authorities might consider.
Responding to what The Star newspaper called "international media frenzy", Razak said Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno still had the avenue to appeal against the Pahang state Syariah (Islamic) court's decision to cane her for consuming alcohol.
Razak said the authorities were "always willing to consider", Star Online said.
He added Kartika should not merely resign herself to the fact that she had been punished.
"Actually there are still avenues for her to appeal and the authority concerned is sensitive and considerate in this matter," he told reporters.
Kartika, 32, a mother of two, had earlier said she would not appeal against the verdict and would like to be caned in public, with media coverage and with her family members watching.
Since the date of the punishment was likely to fall during the holy Ramadan month, the authorities on Monday deferred carrying out of the punishment.
Malaysian law governing the majority Muslim population forbids trading in or drinking alcohol. While men have been caught and punished, Kartika, married to a Singaporean, would be the first woman.
On July 20, the Pahang Syariah High Court ordered her to be given six strokes of the cane after she pleaded guilty to drinking beer at a hotel lounge in Cherating last year.
Kartika's case has caught international attention, the newspaper said, adding: "From Australia to Indonesia, Thailand, China, Germany, the US and Britain, news of her impending sentence has thrust Kartika into the international limelight and into most blog chats.
A Google search for her full name resulted in 63,900 hits while there were over 1,700 news stories on Kartika.
There was also a Facebook account listed as "HELP Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno"
The Prime Minister's accommodating move came even as the government in another state Selangor authorised mosque officials to arrest, without warrant, Muslims drinking alcohol in public places.
Also at risk of being arrested are Muslims selling, storing and displaying alcoholic drinks for sale.
Selangor executive councillor (minister) Hassan Mohammed Ali who made the announcement on Monday is also the Selangor state commissioner of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), a key constituent of Opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat.
First Published: Tuesday, August 25, 2009, 12:14