Saturday, June 28, 2014

Prime Minister has all but abandoned the 2009 Cabinet decision banning unilateral conversion of minors?

Press Conference Statement by M Kula Segaran, DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Ipoh Bart in Ipoh on June 28, 2014

Prime Minister has all but abandoned the 2009 Cabinet decision banning unilateral conversion of minors? 

In 2009, Patmanathan without the knowledge of his wife Indira Gandhi converted into Islam and took the name Riduan Abdullah. 

Subsequently Riduan went further and unilaterally converted his three children (all minors) without the children’s presence and a certificate of conversion was issued by the Perak Islamic authorities.

Riduan also abducted the youngest child from the mother.

Today, after 5 long years of pain and sufferings and having obtained a Court order for the child to be returned to her, Indira’s agony and trauma are not yet over due to the inaction of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the wrong advice of the Prime Minister and the wrong action of the Attorney General (AG).

The IGP Tan Sri Khalid has refused to enforce the committal order, the Prime Minister Datuk Najib has advised that the case be brought to the Federal court while the Attorney General ‎Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail wants to apply to intervene in both the Civil and Syariah courts and suspend their orders on the police.

Indira’s predicament can be easily solved if the IGP will just enforce the committal order served on him. There is no need and justification for the AG to intervene.

The Prime Minister’s advice shows that he has yet to understand the pains and sufferings that Indira has gone through. Her legal battle started in 2009, how long more must she continue to suffer and be denied of having her youngest child returned to her? 

The Prime Minister must show his political courage and will in Indira’s case and interfaith custody matters.

Najib should firstly direct that the IGP carry out his duties professionally and enforce the committal order served on the Police.

He should secondly introduce the necessary law changes to put into effect the April 2009 Cabinet decision banning unilateral conversion of minors.

As a result of Indira’s issue, the Cabinet had in April 2009 decided to ban unilateral conversions of minors.  The then law Minister Datuk Seri Nazri announced in Parliament that a high level Cabinet Committee on inter faith issues was established under the leadership of Tan Sri Koh Su Koon, then a Minister in the Cabinet.  Further, he said necessary laws would be amended to settle the thorny issues relating to inter faith matters. The Government was thus acknowledging there are inadequacies in the law.   

The only directive issued by the Committee was that ‘children of the converts will be raised in the faith they were before the conversion” Being only a directive it had no bite. No one took it seriously.

It was reported that the Cabinet had in April this year formed a joint committee to help resolve issues among couples involved in religious conversion and child custody battles.
 The committee is co-chaired by Nancy and Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, another minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.
I had posed a parliamentary question on June 17 asking when the Government would 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 to 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.

Jmail’s answer he has also contradicted the April 2009 Cabinet decision. Was his reply a decision reached by the joint committee?  If not, why has Nancy not made any clarification?

Or has the Cabinet 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?

Till today, the Prime Minister has yet to break his silence on Jamil’s reply.

Datuk Najib cannot keep silent on this issue. He must inform the public if his Cabinet is still committed to the 2009 Cabinet decision on unilateral conversions of minors and if so, when will the necessary law changes be tabled in Parliament.

If his Cabinet has abandoned the 2009 decision, the Prime Minister must explain to the people the reasons for the U turn and how the government is going to resolve the interfaith custody matters.

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