PETALING JAYA: Barisan Nasional component party leaders have commended the Government for its decision to defer the tabling of the controversial conversion Bill.
“The matter is a concern of people of other faiths, and we need to have in-depth consultation first,” said MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
“MCA wants to take part in the consultation,” he said.
Liow said he had written to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, and forwarded a copy to Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, on Thursday to ask for the deferment.
Liow had written the letter on behalf of the backbenchers and five religious bodies after a meeting on Wednesday.
MIC president Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said the Cabinet had deliberated on the issue and concluded that the Bill should be withdrawn.
“It is a fair move taking into consideration the sensitivities of everyone,” he said.
His deputy Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam added that the Cabinet had taken into consideration the implication of the Bill to the different races in the country.
MCA Youth chief Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong said the deferment would help maintain religious harmony in Malaysia.
MCA Young Professional bureau chief Datuk Chua Tee Yong said: “Going forward, we hope new Bills that may have contentions should involve public engagement to show that the Government is transparent and willing to listen to different feedback from all groups.”
MCA vice-president Gan Ping Sieu asked why the Opposition had been silent on the issue.
“It is a sad state of affairs when political parties do not take a stand on the issue,” he added.
Meanwhile, various groups have also lauded the Government’s decision to withdraw the controversial Administration of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013.
Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) president Daozhang Tan Hoe Chieow said the Council was happy that “the Cabinet has answered our request for the Bill to be withdrawn until further consultation is done with all interested parties, especially with religious bodies.”
PAS central working committee member Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad also agreed that the Bill should be withdrawn, adding that the matter must be properly thought through with all relevant quarters.
“We must take into account various sensitivities. There must be justice for all. What is more important is to think about the children,
“The principle is justice and not the mother or father. That is the supreme principle of Syariah,” he said, adding that a special mechanism must be established on the issue.
Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong hoped the Government would repeal the proposed Section 107 as well as the Section 51(3)(b)(x) and (xi)) which allows for the Syariah Court to determine if a person was Muslim or otherwise which he said was unconstitutional.
“The Bar is heartened that the Government has taken into account concerns expressed by various quarters.
“The Bill therefore should provide that the conversion of minor children must be with the consent of both parents
On Section 51(3)(b)(x) and (xi), he said the question of whether a person is or is not a person professing the religion of Islam or was a Muslim at the time of his death must be decided by the Civil Courts,” he said.
Sisters in Islam programme manager Suri Kempe lauded the Government’s decision but said the issue of unilateral conversion also needed to be addressed in other Acts and State Enactments.
“The Government should also look at other sections of the Administra-tion of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill including those that touch on fatwa and lawmaking with regards to national interest,” she said, adding that a public discussion was needed on the matter.
Datuk Zaid Ibrahim who was once the Minister in charge of legal affairs, said the Cabinet made a good and “very responsible” decision yesterday but hoped the lesson has been learnt.