Thursday, January 14, 2016

A chance to show your support for Indira

Mariam Mokhtar

If you sympathise with the suffering mother, walk for her in Ipoh this Saturday.

If you are a mother or a father or someone who values family life, you will sympathise with M Indira Gandhi, whom her ex-husband and the courts have subjected to untold suffering over the past seven years.

In 2013, the Ipoh High Court allowed her to bring up her own children as Hindus, but the Court of Appeal last week overturned that decision.

If you are shocked by what has happened and are prepared to show your support for Indira and her children, please attend the Solidarity Walk at the Polo Ground in Ipoh at 4.30pm this Saturday. The walk is organised by the Perak Women for Women Society.

The rakyat must be informed of the issues involved, of the impact of the Court of Appeal decision and realise that what has happened to Indira may one day happen to anyone of them.

Indira, a 41-year-old kindergarten teacher from Ipoh, married K Pathmanathan in 1993, about 15 years before he converted to Islam and changed his name to Mohd Ridzwan Abdullah.

In September 2009, Ridzwan unilaterally converted his three young children to Islam and absconded with one of them, Prasana Diksa, then still a baby.

Indira took the case to court, eventually winning her case in the 2013 decision. The news photos of her smiling outside the Ipoh High Court were a sight to behold.

The certificate of conversion of her three children had been quashed. A beaming Indira told reporters, “I have been waiting for four years. This is a very touching moment for me and my children, and I can’t wait to tell them the good news.”

Justice Lee Swee Seng said the conversion certificates were invalid because they were unconstitutional. He noted that they had been issued in the absence of the children and their mother. He stressed that the children had not been asked to recite the Kalimah Shahadah (affirmation of faith).

He specifically mentioned three articles of the Federal Constitution: Article 3, which allows people to practise their religions in peace and harmony, Article 5 which guarantees the right to life and liberty, and Article 11 on freedom of religion, which confers one the right to educate a child in one’s own faith.
Lee reminded us of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. He stated that under a Perak enactment, children had to be present for their certificates of conversion to be issued and that under the Perak Syariah Law, they had to recite the Kalimah Shahadah in the presence of official witnesses.

One would have thought that Justice Lee’s judgement was sufficient, but Ridzwan was determined to challenge this and so launched an appeal.

It did not help that the police defied the court order to arrest Ridzwan and locate Prasana Diksa and deliver her to her mother. The IGP said he did not want to take sides and excused himself from taking any action. Ridzwan had not come to any of the court hearings and had disappeared. He was allegedly hiding in Kelantan. No attempt has been made to search for him.

Last week, a three-member court of appeal ruled that the issuing of the certificates of conversion was sufficient proof that Indira’s children had been converted.

The dissenting judge, Justice Hamid Sultan Abu Backer, argued that Justice Lee was correct in his 2013 decision.

On her birthday, January 10, Indira learnt that the government had appointed a panel of ministers to resolve this custody battle.

She said, “Since 2009, I have been hearing promises from a lot of people, including lawmakers, that they were going to help me get my daughter back. But none of it materialised.”

If you would like to show moral support for Indira and tell the government that it is high time it resolved this conversion issue, please take part in this Saturday’s walk in Ipoh. Indira’s voice, and your voice, must be heard.

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