Saturday, January 2, 2016

An all party parliamentary committee need to be formed to find a permanent solution to interfaith conversion issue

Media statement by M. Kula Segaran MP Ipoh Barat and DAP National Vice Chairman in Ipoh on 2nd January 2016

An all party parliamentary committee need to be formed to find a permanent solution to interfaith conversion issue

In 2009 Indira Gandhi’s husband K. Pathamanathan had converted all the 3 children who were minors into Islam without the consent or knowledge of Indira Gandhi and the 3 children. Court action was filed to nullify the conversion certificates.

On 25th July 2013 Ipoh High Court Justice Lee Swee Seng gave an order to quash 3 certificates of Conversion to the religion of Islam issued by Jabatan Agama Islam Perak and that the certificates are null and void and of no legal effect. Also a further declaration was granted in that the three children to the marriage have not been converted to Islam in accordance with the law.

On 30th December 2015 the country was told by the court of Appeal that even in unilateral conversion to Islam by one parent in a marriage the conversion issue comes within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Syarah Court. This decision was pronounced in this appeal case in the interfaith issue of Indira Gandhi. This decision has sent shock waves to all in the country.

In 2009, the Cabinet minister Datuk Nazri announced the Cabinet’s decision to prohibit the unilateral conversion of minors to Islam had noted that this was being abused to escape the responsibilities of a civil union and gain custody of children.
Thereafter in 2009 a cabinet committee was formed to find a solution to this thorny issue and Minister Subramaniman was appointed into this committee. A similar committee was revived after the 2013 general Election with YB Nancy Sukri and YB Jamil Khir bahrom as co Chairs of the committee. Apparently Minister Subra is a member of the committee.

It is widely reported in all media today that MIC wants Indira’s case resolved. The MIC head further said his party viewed with discomfort the current development of the case.

I thank the open acknowledgment by Subra. But he has been the Cabinet member on the conversion committee since 2009 and what has he done to date to find a permanent solution to this thorny and sensitive issue? Just issuing a statement to cool the issue leads us no where.

Subra must come out in the open and set out the issues he has raised to resolve this controversy. What solution has he made to date? Also who is or hampering a permanent and comprehensive solution to this matter? Or is the committee is in name only but dysfunctional in reality.

MIC and the BN must take responsibility for the disturbing state of affairs in conversion cases. For MIC was one of the main parties in supporting the constitutional amendment brought by ex-PM Mahatir in 1988 to article 121 of the Federal Constitution. The new Article 121(1A) states that civil courts have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of the Syariah Courts.

The overlapping issue arises as in Indira’s case when one spouse converts but the other remains a non-Muslim.

The Appeal court by majority says Indira’s issue comes within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Syariah Court. But in law she has no right of audience in a Syariah Court. She has openly said being a Hindu she wants her matter to be resolve by the civil court. Now where she is going to get a remedy if at all?
This confusion and uncertainty came about due to the 1988 amendment which the DAP had vehemently objected to then.

On 24th June 2014 I had made an open call to ask the Government to resolve the religious conversion issue by setting up a all party parliamentary committee to address this issue and find a solution. But sadly my suggestion was not considered.

Thus we are in a limbo and more in a paralyzed situation. The issue of conversion has to be resolved by Parliament and a strong political will is required. As of today the Government and the Committee on Conversion are in a stalemate with no clear decision. This is because the issue is complex, sensitive and difficult to resolve.
I am of the view the Cabinet committee is incapable and lacks leadership to tackle this issue.
Thus I call upon the Prime Minister to form an all party Parliamentary committee to find a “win win “ formula to this complex issue so that we can have a permanent solution to this unresolved issue!

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