Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Hindu mother sceptical on Cabinet committee formed for her case

By Mayuri Mei Lin & Ram Anand

M. Indira Gandhi says neither she nor her legal representative has been approached regarding the unilateral conversion of her children by her Muslim convert ex-husband.

The Hindu mother whose interfaith custody battle gained sufficient attention to merit the formation of a new Cabinet committee has cast doubt on the purpose of the panel based on the impotence of previous iterations.

M. Indira Gandhi pointed out that despite news of the committee comprising three federal ministers and the Attorney-General, neither she nor her legal representative has been approached regarding the unilateral conversion of her children by her Muslim convert ex-husband.

“So far no one’s came to see me and they have never talked to me. I'm not sure if they've talked to Mr. Kula. So far there is no communication with me,” she said, referring to her lawyer M. Kulasegaran.

“In a way, even if they don't come and see me, they should communicate with my lawyers and he's the lead counsel for everything and he knows my wellbeing from day one,” she said in a phone interview with Malay Mail Online.

Despite the lack of communication from the new panel as well as from others formed in the past, ostensibly to resolve the same issue that has dragged on since 2009, Indira was sanguine over what the latest iteration may achieve.

She pointed out that the committee comprising Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam, Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom was not the first, but rather the third assembled to possibly resolve the case.

“Each time the committee has not produced anything for us even though it should be fair to everyone. Every time we’re hopeful, the committee won’t come up with something.

“I hope this time they will implement something so that everyone will get justice,” she added.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said announced on Sunday that the panel of three ministers has met with Attorney-General Tan Sri Apandi Ali to discuss possible solutions to Indira’s case.

Subramaniam said the same day that he was confident the latest committee would provide solutions in ensuring such cases will be a thing of the past.

Unlik Indira’s cautious optimism, however, Kulasegaran dismissed outright the purpose of the new panel, claiming it to be an attempt by the government to convince the public that a solution was coming when none was in the making.

“This is the third committee they have formed on the matter. What are the findings of the previous committee? There doesn’t seem to be any effort to follow the recommendations of the committee,” he said in a text message to Malay Mail Online.

“That’s why I say PM must helm this committee. Laws must be amended. The opposition will fully support it. We just want a win win situation,” he said, adding that Indira and her children have suffered enough.

The Court of Appeal in a 2-1 ruling last week set aside a 2013 court order that had quashed the conversion of Indira’s three children to Islam by their Muslim convert father, who had converted them without their mother’s knowledge.

The decision was a critical blow to the hopes of the Hindu mother in her seven-year legal ordeal to annul the conversions of her three children and recover her youngest offspring who was snatched away by the father.

The father’s move to convert the children to Islam without their presence has complicated the case, with police refusing to execute a civil court order for them to retrieve Indira’s youngest child, citing a conflicting order from the Shariah courts.

Although Indira’s case is not the only such interfaith custody battle in Malaysia, it is the most high-profile instance and often used to illustrate the problems with the country’s parallel civil and Shariah legal systems.

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