MCA: Why backtrack on unilateral conversion of minors?

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 11 Apr 2019

PETALING JAYA: Refusal to insert a clause that prevents unilateral conversion of minors into the the Law Reform (Marriage & Divorce) Act (LRA) is a failure to protect minors and the constitutional rights of non-converting spouses, says MCA secretary-general Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun.

“Malaysia must legislate such provisions clearly in writing via amendments to the LRA so that we do not have to rely on interpretations by the judiciary, which can go either way,” she said in a statement Thursday (April 11).

Clause 88A states that the religion of the child "shall remain as the religion of the parties to the marriage prior to the conversion" and that the child can, after turning 18 and with the consent of both parents, convert to Islam.

Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said in parliament last week that there were no plans to reintroduce Clause 88A to amend the LRA to deal with the unilateral conversion of minors.

According to him, this was because the Federal Court had decided against several unilateral conversions last year, adding that the court's decision would bind the decision of the lower courts.

Referring to a Federal Court judgement in January 2018 that quashed the unilateral conversion of Indira Gandhi’s three minor children, Chew said the Malay version of the Federal Constitution must also be amended to read “ibubapa” (parents) as it was originally drafted and not “ibu atau bapa” (mother or father), to which it was switched without going through the necessary parliamentary process.

Chew also urged the Home Ministry and Bukit Aman to be professional, and to make efforts to reunite Indira with her missing daughter Prasana Diksa.

“If Bukit Aman can apprehend terrorists before their plans see fruition, locating Prasana or her father should not be complex,” she said.

She added that it was irresponsible of M. Kulasegaran, who was Indira’s lawyer, to wash his hands off the issue after being appointed Human Resources Minister.

“The mandate given to Pakatan, and the protections sought by all non-Muslims have come to a crushing halt with this abandonment,” said Chew.

Indira Gandhi said this week that she was let down by the government’s decision not to amend the laws dealing with unilateral conversions, adding that Pakatan had failed to keep to its pledge.