Perlis state government’s move to allow unilateral conversion by one parent unacceptable, says Liow

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 10 Dec 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: MCA has strongly condemned the Perlis government’s amendment of its enactment to allow the unilateral conversion of a non-Muslim child by a newly converted Muslim parent without the consent of the non-Muslim spouse.

MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, who described the move as “sabotage” by the state government, said it clearly violated and went against what the Federal Government hoped to achieve.

“Surely the Perlis state government is aware that the Federal Government had only just tabled the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Bill 2016, which safeguards against the unilateral conversion of minors. This amendment is beyond unacceptable,” he said.

“It is not only a step backwards, but a direct challenge against what the Federal Govern­ment is trying to do at the Cabinet level. What is the Mentri Besar trying to prove?”

Liow emphasised that this was not about politicics or religion, but about justice for a non-converted parent.

“This is a matter which requires compassion and fair play,” he stressed.

“The conversion of a child by a parent, regardless of religion, in order to win custody after a failed marriage is without a doubt a gross miscarriage of justice.

“MCA is especially concerned that the Perlis state government has totally snubbed and rejected the Law Reform Bill tabled in Parliament just two weeks ago to put an end to cases of this nature.

“This is a clearly underhanded act and we refuse to accept it,” said Liow.

Wanita MCA chief Datuk Heng Seai Kie described the amendments to Perlis’ state laws as a rushed job.

“They should have waited for the outcome of the amendment to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorces) Act. The Barisan Nasional government has already proposed this in first reading in Parliament, so why should Perlis, a state under Barisan rule, pass a contradicting amendment?” she asked, calling the move illogical.

In the proposed amendment to the Law Reform Act, a new Section 88A states that the child would remain in the religion practised by the parents at the time of marriage, and may choose his or her religion upon turning 18.

The amendment was made to resolve the long-standing issue involving the religious conversion of minors and was tabled in Parliament late last month.

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, said any amendment to the state law should be in line with the Federal Constitution.

Referring to Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution, which states that the religion of the person under the age of 18 years shall be decided by his parent or guardian, Chew, who is also an MCA vice-president, maintained that “parent” means both mother and father.

“A person’s religion is decided by himself or if it is a child, it is only fair for both parents to make that decision together because the child belongs to both of them,” she said.

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