Media statement by M. Kula Segaran MP Ipoh Barat and DAP National Vice Chairman in Parliament on 8th March 2016
Speedy amendments reforms to prevent unilateral conversion must be tabled to Parliament immediately
The importance of deliberation and consensus
In any mature Parliamentary democracy any amendment to laws that has wide implications to society as whole requires deliberation and concensus,besides a time frame to ensure that it does not turn out to be a mere academic exercise or an eyewash to deceive people. The continued foot dragging on the Part of the Government on the law amendments related to unilateral conversion and its refusal to provide MPs with the bill is a concern. It is a matter of time the pubic will question the sincererity of government in resolving aprotracted constitutional issue. Justice delayed is justice denied
Absents of Milestone for Progress
The Government has appointed a 5 main cabinet committee in early January 2016 to address the unilateral conversion to Islam of minor children. This was a upshot to Indiara Gandhi plight, where there was unilateral conversion of her 3 minor Children who were converted by their father who himself had converted into Islam. The conversions of the minors were without consent or knowledge of their mother. What is the input from this committee and is there a milestone to progress from? I believe the source of the problem is the tendency of working within the old paradigm that tries to work within a ethno religious ideology that creates stumbling blocks instead of working on a progressive paradigm of constitutional frame work that addresses issues of justice through the lens of Human Dignity and justice..
Pronouncemence lacking legislative bite
Thus a long court battle started in 2009 at the ipoh High Court. Although the Ipoh High Court agreed that the conversions of minor children were wrong this decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal on 30th December 2015. The issue is pending appeal to the Federal Court. When theunilateral conversion was first raised in Parliament 2009 the Government formed a Cabinet Committee. The role of the committee was a advisory one pronouncing conversion cases involving minor children ought to be raised in the faith they were in prior to the conversion. This more easy said than done as it lacked any legislative bite it was generally not followed or enforced. Then in 2013 another Cabinet committee was formed but nothing came out of it.
Assurance without progress
With this impasse, a 3rd Cabinet Committee was formed. So far we have heard assurances from this committee of the necessary legislation to prevent unilateral conversion will be so presented in the March sitting of Parliament. The cabinet committee comprises Health Minister Dr SSubramaniam; Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz; Transport Minister and MCA president Liow Tiong Lai; Islamic Affairs Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Jamil Khir Baharom; and cabinet minister Joseph Kurup, who is president of the United Sabah People’s Party. Indira event went to Parliament house on 28th January where she was assured by 3 Ministers namely Nazri, Kurup and Liow that the necessary legislation are being formulated and will be tabled in this March sitting. A mere assurance without progress
MPs in dark over proposed legislative amendments
Defacto law Minister Nancy said the relevant agencies like the Islamic body in the Federal Territories are still being consulted, as the federal government plans amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993 and the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984 to ensure that issues like child custody, alimony and division of marital assets are resolved in the court in which one’s marriage was registered.
Parliament is in session from tomorrow till the 7th of April. It is regrettable to date the proposed draft amendments have yet to be send to MPs. The delay in forwarding the bills to MPs is a set back to the reforms promised by the Government. MPs need adequate time to get feed pack form constituents, experts and Civil society for a proper debate in Parliament. Why the delay and the dragging of this issue is unfortunate. The lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the Government is disturbing and irresponsible.
Will the setting of interfaith committee prolong solutions?
I am concern whether the necessary amendments will ever take shape as it looks like the BN Government does not have the political will to do so. The recent setting of interfaith committee consisting of a 35 members on February 14th 2016 by Prime Minister Najib Razak to promote understanding and harmony among religious adherence ( JKMPKA) seems to suggest an immediate solution to the interfaith conversion issue will be dragged on. The million dollar question is will this interfaith committee play a significant role addressing this issues and will the Government will take its recommendation seriously. We have seen how the Government works where even recommendations from the royal commission of inquiries that chalenges its political authority is placed in the back burner.
Justice delayed is Justice denied
Many Malaysians are suffering in silence as many have been caught by the conversion issue many innocently. The lack of sense of urgency,transparency and accountability on the part of the Government deprives Malaysians of their dignity and their rights as citizens. . Justice delayed is justice denied. There fore an urgent proactive action is needed by the Government. I call upon the Government to immediately provide MPs with bill related to unilateral conversion so there would be enough time for deliberation and engagement with civil society,