Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Has the government made a U turn on the April 2009 Cabinet decision banning unilateral conversion of minors?



Press Conference Statement by M Kula Segaran, DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Ipoh Barat at Parliament House on Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Has the government made a U turn on the April 2009 Cabinet decision banning unilateral conversion of minors?

DAP MP for Puchong, Gobind Singh, had on June 11 via his parliamentary question asked the Prime Minister to state the steps and actions taken to resolve the issues of civil divorces and custody rights where either the husband or wife converts to Islam.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Jamil Khir had in a written reply said that the government is still “studying” a mechanism to solve the issues, almost six years after promising in 2009 to amend three laws to make the law clear on the matter.

I had posed a similar question yesterday asking when the Government will implement the 2009 Cabinet decision banning unilateral conversion of minors. To my shock and horror, the written reply I got from Jamil Khir was drastically opposite from the 2009 Cabinet decision.

Jamil said that at this stage, the government has no intention to amend the necessary laws. He quoted the case of Sahmala Sathiyasslan Vs Dr Jeyaganseh C Mogarajah L Anor (2004) CLJ 416 and said that based on the decision, the consent of one parent is sufficient to (adalah memadai) in deciding a minor’s religion as the word parent in Article 12 (4) of the Federal Constitution is parent or guardian, and not parents or guardian that means either father or mother or guardian. (refer to parliamentary reply attached). 




Jmail’s answer has not only contradicted the reply he gave to Gobind on June 11, he has also contradicted the April 2009 Cabinet decision.

Has the government made a U turn on the April 2009 decision banning the unilateral conversions of minors? If so, when did the Cabinet make such a U turn?

In 2009 itself, I had questioned the ineffectiveness of the Cabinet directive which was only an advisory nature. It has no legal effect. Nobody has bothered to adhere to it. Otherwise the parties would not be going through so much agony, emotional pain and stress.

It is already  most disappointing that after more than 5 years, the government has not fulfilled its promise to introduce the necessary law changes to put into effect the April 2009 Cabinet decision, it will be totally unacceptable if the Cabinet has decided to make a U turn on the decision.

The Prime Minister must not remain silent on this matter and he must immediately clarify what is the Cabinet’s position. If the government is still committed to the April 2009 Cabinet decision, Datuk Najib must be prepared to commit a date when the necessary law changes will be tabled in Parliament.


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