Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Kula: Back to square one if marriage and divorce bill not tabled

KUALA LUMPUR: For DAP MP M Kulasegaran, it is back to square one dealing with cases involving non-Muslims and their Muslim partners.

Disappointed that there were tell-tale signs that the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Act 2016 would not be tabled at the Dewan Rakyat this sitting, he recalled his first two cases he had to deal with in the mid-1980s that set him on his journey to push for the bill.

The first was a Sikh man caught in close proximity with a Muslim woman. Kula said the Sikh man was forced to convert and get married to the Muslim lady.

Not knowing his rights, Kula said the man had converted but divorced his wife several years later.

The second case was a Hindu man who married a Muslim lady after his Hindu wife packed her bags and left to her parents’ home with their three children.

“After she left, he used to buy nasi lemak. He got married (to the nasi lemak seller) and became a Muslim.

“After having two children, he wanted to go back to the first wife but couldn’t.

“He went to the third floor and committed suicide. He was only 34,” Kula told FMT.

Under Malaysian law, he said the father’s property goes to the Muslim side of the family.

“Is this fair? The Hindu wife and her kids do not get anything. It is no fault of the children.”

Kula said this issue is addressed in the reform bill waiting to be tabled.

The civil litigation and criminal lawyer for 33 years said there was so much excitement on Nov 21, 2016 when the government finally said they will table the bill.

“For many people, it was a dream come true. So many people are suffering. Family trauma and all that would have been put to rest with this amendment.”

He said the bill was one of the most progressive and far-sighted bills which filled the hearts and minds of everyone.

“It is rarest kind of bill filled with retrospect effectiveness.”

Clarifying “retrospect effectiveness”, he said it would have had answers to many cases he handled in court where a man and wife were not able to fight their case in civil courts after one of them brought along a certificate proving he or she had converted to Islam.

He said the bill, which addressed the issue, would have allowed families to conclude their case in civil courts.

“Anyone wanting to be a Muslim, they can do it. No qualms. That is between that person and God. But these people underwent a civil marriage and they should settle their differences in the civil court first.”

Unfortunately, he said these cases will be left unsolved if the bill is not tabled in the Dewan Rakyat.

He cited another case where a multi-millionaire father had refused to support his children’s education.

“I took up the case. I lost in court. Now, the reform bill looks into this issue.

“To see this in print in the act was a joy as a father is compelled to finance his children’s education if he is capable under this bill.”

He also touched on young children who are converted without their knowledge and input. “They are caught in a limbo. What do you do with them? Why don’t the authorities address the issue?”

Kula is the lawyer for M Indira Gandhi, whose former husband K Pathmanathan converted to Islam on March 11, 2009, taking the name of Muhammad Riduan Abdullah. He left the house three weeks later with their youngest child.

On April 2, 2009, he converted all three children to Islam without their knowledge and presence, and without Indira’s consent. He went to the shariah court several days later to obtain custody over them.

Indira’s eldest daughter, Tevi Darsiny, is now an adult at 20 while her brother, Karan Dinish, turns 19 in October. They are old enough to decide their own faiths.

Nine-year-old Prasana Diksa’s location remains unknown after being snatched by Riduan seven years ago.

Kula hopes Barisan Nasional component parties, MCA and MIC, will come forward to make sure no one “rolls back the carpet”.

Kula had said in the third week of the parliamentary session that the bill was pushed down to No 8, which indicates there is no priority in getting the bill passed.

The current sitting of the Dewan Rakyat ends on April 6.

The bill puts in place legal safeguards against unilateral conversion of minors to Islam, and addresses disputes due to the dissolution of marriage arising from a conversion by making clear that the couple can divorce in a civil court and not in a shariah court.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

‘Why no priority in pushing marriage and divorce reform bill?’

KUALA LUMPUR: DAP’s Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran is concerned that an important legislative amendment that would address problems on the issue of a married spouse converting to Islam will not be presented in the current sitting of Parliament as has been scheduled.

Kula said there are tell-tale signs that the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Act 2016 may in fact never be debated and passed.

“The above bill was to be debated this week as it was listed as No. 4 in the Order Paper of Parliament for the last two weeks,” he said in a statement today.

“Now, in the third week of the parliamentary session, it has been pushed down to No. 8. This clearly indicates there is no priority in getting this bill passed,” he added.

The current sitting of the Dewan Rakyat ends on April 6.

The bill was tabled for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said on Nov 21.

It puts in place legal safeguards against unilateral conversions of minors to Islam, and addresses disputes due to dissolution of marriage arising from a conversion by making clear that the couple can divorce in a civil court and not in a shariah court.

Kulasegaran said he had been made to understand there are “powerful people” who want the bill to be withdrawn at all costs.

The DAP vice-chairman said he had been hearing from the grapevine that the bill may not see “the light at the end of the tunnel”.

He urged Prime Minister Najib Razak to keep to his promise on seeing the amendment through and not to give in to “ultras”.

“Any delay in approving the bill, which is already eight years too late, will make many to continue to suffer in silence,” he said, noting that the cabinet had decided in 2009 that unilateral conversion would be banned.

“This bill would have addressed this and many shortcomings surrounding non-Muslim issues,” said Kula, who is also the counsel for M Indira Gandhi, who is challenging the unilateral conversion of her three children by her Muslim convert ex-husband.

He said Najib had given an assurance at the government’s Women’s Day Celebration on Aug 25, 2016, when he said the cabinet had agreed that the amendment would be tabled at the next parliamentary sitting.

Najib had then said the amendment to the law would iron out the problem of overlapping jurisdiction between the civil and shariah courts.

“The decision was made after demands that we resolve the problem… If the couple is married under civil law, then we should settle the divorce under civil law,” Najib had said.

“I believe this is a just move that is in line with what Islam demands of us,” he said in his speech.

Kula added that he had met the presidents of MCA and MIC in the last days of the parliamentary sitting in December 2016 to push for the bill to be approved.

“They assured me there was no hurry as definitely in the next session all will be achieved by passing of the bill,” he said.

“It looks like now both the MCA and MIC presidents have been side-stepped and their assurances has gone down the drain,” he said. “Thus the promise by the PM and his cabinet is just an eye wash.”

Kula questioned why there was a sudden change of mind. “Who is blocking this bill from being debated and passed?”

He said many Malaysians would be disappointed by a move to defer or to withdraw the bill.

“Has the government of the day lost its political will to bring a harmonious life for distressed married couples?”

He added that he was the first to congratulate the government when the bill was tabled in Parliament on Nov 21.

“Many Malaysians are suffering in silence, especially unfortunate children who have been converted to Islam by a parent,” he had said then. “Many are also unable to move on from this predicament and with their lives.”

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Mahathir would have voted “no” – Kula on Hadi’s Bill

KUALA LUMPUR, March 9: DAP’s Ipoh Barat MP M. Kula Segaran said that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad would have voted a “no” against PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s Private Member’s Bill, if the former premier was still a member of Parliament

“If Mahathir was there (in Parliament), he would vote against it (Hadi’s Bill),” the Ipoh Barat MP told The Malaysian Times (TMT) today, when asked to comment on Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) leader Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s statement that he is yet to be certain on his vote for the Bill.

Kula, who is also DAP vice president, said that it is highly likely the government would bring up the Hadi Bill to amend Syariah laws in parliament to garner support for the 14th general election (GE14).

“I think it is highly likely for political reasons in view of yesterday, the Election Commission (EC) announcing the second stage of the display of addition or reduction of voters or new constituencies and all that.

“So that shows that the government may bring the necessary amendments this June or July sitting and elections will be called in September.

“So they (BN) want to win this and get the support of people and say that they are in favor of this.

“They don’t want to defeat Hadi’s bill, otherwise they will shown as though they are not concern of the Muslims, I am quiet confident it will be debated,” said Kula.

He said that the motion is already in place , so after the MP have finished debating the Yang di pertua Agung’s speech until next Thursday.

“The following week for the three days the minister will reply on all these issues. That means until the end of the following week,the bill wont come up.

“Then after that there is every possibility that the government will bring it up anytime,” said Kula.

Hadi’s Bill is currently listed at No. 7 in the Order Paper behind several government Bills.

Hadi had tabled a motion on the last day of Parliament sitting in May 2016 after the Government allowed it to take priority over government Bills.

Hadi had, however, deferred debating the Bill and had it re-tabled after submitting an amended version in November 2016.

Among the proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 or Act 355 are to increase the maximum penalty to 30 years imprisonment, fine of up to RM100,000 and 100 lashes of the rotan. —TMT

Saturday, March 4, 2017

"Illogical System cause of undocumented children"

Lawyer-cum-MP says the present law gives too much discretion to those in power granting citizenship, causing the rise of undocumented children

KUALA LUMPUR: The present law gives a lot of discretion to the Home Ministry in granting citizenship, and this has contributed to the problem of undocumented children, said lawmaker M Kulasegaran.

He said that the extensive discretion given somehow supersedes Article 15A of the Federal Constitution which clearly says if there are special circumstances then the child can be given citizenship.

The four considerations specified in the Court of Appeal Order to guide the Home Ministry when evaluating an application made under Article 15A of the Federal Constitution are – the person is under the age of 21 years who has no parents; the person who has a connection with the country; cases that would result in hardship; the best interest of the child.

Therefore, the ‘little Napoleons’ in the National Registration Department (NRD) who overlook Article 15A in the process of granting citizenship are complicating matters, said Kulasegaran, who is also a lawyer.

“Basically it is a very unfair, illogical system.. the discretion is used very easily and extensively without logic and reason,” said Kulasegaran when asked to comment on the status of abandoned babies and babies of unverified origin adopted by Malaysians.

He said more people were getting caught in this arbitrary process.

“Don’t have to go very far. I am the only one out of 222 MPs who was bestowed a red IC when I was 12 years old and only got a blue IC when I was 15 years old. I was a non-citizen for three years of my life,” said the Ipoh Barat DAP MP.

He said being born in the estate, he fought through the system and was lucky enough to come out a success story, but there are still so many who are not as lucky.

“My parents left the estate, worked hard and fought for me that I was able to leave the country and study law in London, come back and work then become an MP. Many of my friends are still languishing away in estates, jobless, who may not have even voted once in their lifetime. That’s the system we have,” he said.

Article 15A gives discretionary powers to the Home Ministry but unfortunately this is not used to the best advantage and in a civilised manner to do justice to that particular article, he added.

“I would say the little Napoleans in the various departments are frustrating (the system) and making it difficult, if not impossible, for these people to be granted citizenship papers,” said Kulasegaran.

He said that when these blunders on citizenship go to the courts, they were dealt with in an “inhumane” manner.

“The discretion given to them (NRD, Home Ministry) should be exercised judiciously, not at their whims and fancies. The courts also are sometimes inhumane. They will only show humanity if they go through what I went through. It was three years of uncertainty, being neither here nor there. It is worse than being an illegal immigrant.

“When you are not a citizen, you cannot sit for exams, can’t get hospital treatment, no EPF, can’t be legally employed or married, can’t get properties,” said Kulasegaran.

He was, however, thankful that in his case, it was an error that was corrected in three years, unlike so many more left in limbo.

He said what is worse is that abandoned babies are being deprived of citizenship although Article 15A was enacted for special cases who cannot prove citizenship.

“The government has gone ‘senile’ because when you go and adopt a baby, after the amendment was done in 97-98, the new birth certificate will not divulge that the child is adopted. Before the amendment it used to say anak angkat (adopted child) on the birth cert, now that is dropped, biological parents’ names also withdrawn so it looks natural and the child does not grow up in a different environment, doesn’t feel dejected, rejected.

“Now what these little Napoleans are doing is – if you adopt a child that is stateless or whose birth is suspicious or when the parents can’t be located, they provide birth certificate but it says ‘non-citizen’. I got that kind of cases now and I think it’s absolutely rubbish,” said Kulasegaran.

He said the process of granting a birth certificate without mentioning ‘adopted child’ and then including ‘non-citizen’ defeats the purpose of why the adoption law was amended in the first place, which was to avoid mental anguish, suffering and pain of the child that was not asked to be born in the first place.

“What are the authorities up to? If you can empower and give blue ICs in Sabah, Sarawak and to Indonesians who came yesterday, why not to our children? Where is the humanity? These kids are worse off because they can’t go to school at all. I have cases where children don’t go to school because of this. Don’t punish these children. I don’t know what’s the point. It is very unfair,” lamented the DAP national vice-chairman.

He further decried the mockery of giving blue ICs to senior citizens now, “when many of them have one leg in the grave at 75 and 80”.

“They have never voted, are at the dying stage, in wheelchairs and now they get recognised as citizens? That is not empowerment,” said Kulasegaran.

Early last month, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that the state NRD will gather information on the stateless Sarawakian Chinese and make the necessary recommendations on those who meet the criteria to be citizens.

He gave his commitment as home minister to address the matter without delay, and urged the Chinese community to help the NRD on the issue, adding that those born and bred in the state already qualify for citizenship, as granted under the Federal Constitution.