Friday, July 18, 2014

Call on the Prime Minister to form all party Committee to find solutions to interfaith matters



Speech by M. Kula Segaran MP Ipoh Barat and DAP Vice Chairman at the while speaking at a forum organized by DAP on “Mothers, Children, in interfaith caught with no remedy? ´on July 17 in Ipoh.
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Call on the Prime Minister to form all party Committee to find solutions to interfaith matters



There was excitement in April 2009 when the Government, in response to the controversy of interfaith custody battles, announced that the Cabinet had decided to ban unilateral conversion of minors.

Further, there were promises of new legislations to prevent the unilateral conversions. Even a cabinet committee was formed under the chairmanship of Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon to resolve the issue. But the committee only issued a directive that all children of a converted parent shall be raised in the same faith prior to the parent’s conversion. No changes to laws have been tabled in Parliament as promised.

The excitement was short lived and the government which likes to shout “janji di tepati ‘slogan continues to drag its feet on the 2009 Cabinet decision. No wonder netizens are saying BN’s slogan is” janji di capati!

As interfaith custody issues were hitting headlines in the media in the last few months, a new committee of similar nature was formed in April this year under the joint chairmanship of Nancy Shukri, the de facto Law Minister and Datuk Jamil Khir, the Minister in charge of Islamic affairs.
But till today, nobody knows what the Committee has done, when it should have worked day and night to resolve the thorny issue and end the trauma and sufferings of mothers and children caught in the interfaith custody battles.


Inconsistent Replies from Minister
But what was most shocking was the parliamentary reply given to me on June 17.

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 was still “studying” a mechanism to solve the issues.
I had posed a similar question on June 17 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.

Lack of leadership by the PM
So has the government made a u turn on the 2009 Cabinet decision? Till today, Najib has chosen to remain silent.
But recently the Prime Minister has said due to wide concerns of the issue, the Federal Court should hear the cases on conversion and bring about finality. So the Attorney General has now filed proceedings to intervene.
But the begging question is why has the Cabinet committees formed are ineffective and in a lame duck situation. It is basically directionless like a chicken running around without a head.

Interfaith custody battle is no doubt a sensitive issue. But the people want the country to be led by a leader who not only can handle sensitive issues but address them effectively.
Unfortunately, the Prime Minister who talked about reforms and transformation lacks the political courage and leadership to do what ought to be done.
Let’s see how the issue of custodial deaths has been dealt with by the authorities. Despite the fact that custodial deaths continue to rise, the government has still refused to set up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) recommended by the Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah.
A few days ago, I asked how many more custodial deaths must happen before the government will form the IPCMC and tonight I want to ask, how much longer must victims in the interfaith custody battles like Indira Gandhi and her children continue to suffer before the Cabinet will come up with a permanent solution to prevent the unilateral conversion of minors and interfaith custody issues?
Any delay is finding a permanent solution will also cause more misunderstanding and ill feelings among the different religious faiths.
6 years have passed since the Cabinet banned unilateral conversions of minors in 2009. There must be no further delay .The Prime Minister must prove his seriousness and preparedness to resolve the issue without any further delay. Surely finding a solution to this thorny issue cannot be as tough as finding MH370!
All party Committee needed to be formed
As the Cabinet Committee set up to address inter faith custody matter is more dead than alive and its continuous paralysis will hurt inter faith relations in our country,  I call on the Prime Minister to set up an all party Committee to overcome this serious issue.
All political parties in the country should be represented in the Committee and a time frame should be set for the Committee to resolve the thorny issue.

I would in the next sitting of Parliament raise this issue to bring a win win situation to this uncertain terrain.

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