Friday, June 13, 2014

Indira's lawyer says PM's advice disappointing

3:10PM Jun 13, 2014 Malaysiakini

Indira's lawyer says PM's advice disappointing

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has been accused of attempting to take the easy way out in matters of interfaith custody disputes.

A lawyer representing a Hindu woman embroiled in a custody battle with her Muslim convert ex-husband said it does not offer a quick solution to the problems faced by his client M Indira Gandhi and S Deepa, another Hindu woman in a similar predicament.

Though commending Najib for "finally taking an interest" in the cases, M Kulasegaran (right), however, said the advice was "disappointing".

"The prime minister has attempted to find an easy way out by asking the parties to go to the courts and seek remedy.

"But does he seriously think he is being fair? Has he really understood the whole issue?" Kulasegaran asked in a statement.

Yesterday, Najib said parents involved in interfaith custody disputes should seek redress from the Federal Court.

Kulasegaran said Najib should have directed the cabinet to look into providing long-term solution including amending existing laws to resolve interfaith custody cases, as conversion and custody issues are intricate and difficult to be resolved.

In both the Deepa and Indira Gandhi cases, the fathers converted to Islam, and had taken the children away from the respective mothers.

“Further the fathers had obtained custody orders from the syariah courts. The mothers had at the same time obtained custody orders from the civil courts.”

The major issue here, he said, is the conflicting jurisdiction of the civil courts set by the federal constitution and the syariah courts established by the state governments and that the religious courts do not have jurisdiction for non-Muslims to get a remedy.

The Ipoh Barat MP cited the case Datuk Kadar Shah Tun Sulaiman vs Datin Fauziah Haron, where the judge said the proceedings before the High Court of Malaya or the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak must take precedence over the syariah courts as the civil courts are superior as it is duly constituted under the federal constitution, while the syariah courts are mere state courts established by state law.

‘Why 2009 cabinet decision omitted?’

Kulasegaran further asked why the PM had omitted the 2009 cabinet decision banning unilateral conversion of minors, where statements made by the former de facto law minister Nazri Abdul Aziz to have relevant laws amended to address the issue were brushed off.

A national committee formed on the matter only issued directives that “all children of a converted parent shall be raised in the same faith prior to the parent’s conversion”.

Kulasegaran said in 2009 itself he had questioned the effectiveness of the cabinet directive which acts as an advisory nature and has no legal effect, and why the relevant laws have not been amended till today?

“It is obvious that the government has no political will to resolve the issue,” he added further, saying now Najib asked the matter to referred to the Federal Court.

“Can the PM please tell Indira Gandhi and Deepa who is going to foot the lawyers’ expenses as in the case of Indira, she filed the case in 2009 and the custody battle started at the High Court and went to the Court of Appeal and Federal Court, and is now returned to High Court for committal,” he asked.

He said the issue can be resolved if the government amend the laws as promised, and there will be a long-term settlement of the issues.

Kulasegaran also urged Najib to call up inspector-general of police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar to enforce the committal orders.

In a related development, former Teluk Intan MP and Tamil Sanggam chairperson M Manogaran (left) said the IGP’s suggestion was not tenable and borne out of ignorance of the law and abdication from his responsibilities.

“By making a stand such as this, the IGP has shown scant disregard of the welfare of children, which is of paramount importance in custody cases.”

In citing the Police Act, Manogaran said the IGP cannot give opinions and he must just carry out the duties that were required of him. Hence, the IGP must resign to safeguard the good name of the force, he said.

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