Monday, April 25, 2016

Will issues of unilateral conversion of minor be ever resolved?

Speech by M. Kula Segaran, MP for Ipoh Barat and DAP National Vice Chairman in Kuala Kubu Baru on 24th April 2016.

Will issues of unilateral conversion of minor be ever resolved?

1. Background of Indira Gandhi’s interfaith case
Indira Gandhi married her husband Patmanathan in 1993 according to Hindu rites. They have 3 children. On 11th March 2009, the husband converted to Islam and adopted his new name as Muhammad Riduan Bin Abdullah

On 2nd April 2009; three children of the family were also converted into Islam by their father Patmanathan at the Bahagian Dakwah, Jabatan Agama Islam, Ipoh, Perak. The conversion was without the knowledge and or consent of the children's mother.

There after the family got separated and the husband took the youngest child of the family and went missing. He is still hiding at an undisclosed location.
On 30th December 2015, the country was shocked when the Court of Appeal by a majority overruled the Ipoh High Court’s decision to nullify the conversion into Islam certificate issued by the Perak Islamic religious authority.

1. Cabinet Committee on Unilateral Conversions
After the above decision, the Prime Minister announced a 5 man Cabinet committee to address the issues of unilateral conversion of minors.

In 2009, a similar cabinet committee was formed but only a directive was issued namely “in unilateral conversion cases, when one spouse converts to Islam, the children to follow the faith of the parents at the time of their marriage”. This cabinet directive became useless as being only a directive, it was unenforceable in law. Later another Cabinet was formed in 2013 and its existence was hardly known as it was functionless.

On 28th January this year, during the Parliamentary sitting to discuss TPPA, Indira Gandhi met up with 3 members of the 5 man committee, namely Culture and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, and Minister in the Prime Minister‘s Department, Datuk Joseph Kurup in Parliament House.

All 3 gave her assurances that the necessary laws were being drafted to prevent unilateral conversions and they would be tabled for adoption in March parliament sitting. In March de facto law Minister Nancy Sukri asserted to questions raised by me that the laws would be tabled in the coming June sitting. To date I have not heard any updates on this issue. My concern is that it will thus be further delayed as there seems to be no political will and urgency by the Government.

The government has dragged its feet long enough on this issue which has brought great injustice and sufferings to Indira Gandhi. There can be no reason whatsoever for any delay.
I will continue to raise and push for the necessary legislation to prevent unilateral conversion in Parliament.

2 Case against IGP
The Inspector General of Police (IGP) refused to act on the orders of the Ipoh High Court to retrieve the last child of Indira on the grounds there was a similar order from the Syariah Court. The High Court gave leave to force the IGP to act. From this decision, the Court of Appeal by 2-1 majority disagreed and said the IGP needs not act on the High court order. On further appeal to the Federal Court, the matter was argued last August in 2015. Now the matter has been fixed for decision on the 19th of May 2016.

This matter has been in and out of court since 2009. A finality must come about. The necessary laws to prevent unilateral conversion must be tabled to bring about religious harmony without further dragging of the issue. The failure to date on the promised laws shows the government’s inability as well as lack of political will to address sensitive issues affecting the people of the country.

3) Hindu Sangam should play a more active role on Hindu religious matters.

i further urge the Hindu sangam to play a prominent role to activate religious and spiritual classes in all Hindu Temples in Malaysia. many Hindu temples can be center of propagation of the Hindu religion especially to the young. In this regard i have earlier reminded and spoken the Hindu Sangam President Dato Mohan Shan pn this issue. The Hindu sangam should visit each and every temple and urge the temple committee to sponsor and run hindu clases and keep the temples the never center for Hinduism.

The BN government has definitely failed Indira and her daughter. How could a government that shouts the “People first” slogan allow a mother to be forcibly separated from her child for so long?
A responsible government would not have allowed this issue to prolong for such a long time.
A quick resolvement is overdue to help many who are caught in the above situations. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet must do what is right urgently.

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