Monday, April 14, 2014

Lawyers, lawmakers urge police to act against Muslim convert who defied custody order

APRIL 14, 2014
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar has come under fire for distancing the police from the custody battle involving S. Deepa and her ex-husband Izwan Abdullah. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, April 14, 2014.Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar has come under fire for distancing the police from the custody battle involving S. Deepa and her ex-husband Izwan Abdullah. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, April 14, 2014.Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar has come under more criticism for the failure of the police to take action against a Muslim convert who had allegedly kidnapped his son from his ex-wife after she was granted legal custody of their children.
Lawyers for Liberty said the failure of the police to act against Izwan Abdullah was "appalling".
The group's legal and campaign coordinator Michelle Yesudas said Khalid should not cite "conflicting jurisdictions" as a reason for the police's inaction.
"The decision of the Shariah Court was ultra vires and bad in law, as under the Federal Constitution (Second List in the 9th Schedule), it is clear that the Shariah Court does not have jurisdiction over non-Muslims," she said in a statement today.
"It was clear that Izwan Abdullah's action was criminal in nature, despite the Shariah Court granting him custody.
Last Monday, the Seremban High Court granted Izwan's ex-wife S. Deepa custody of their two children Sharmila (Nurul Nabila), 9, and Mithran (Nabil), 6, who were converted to Islam without her knowledge in April last year.
Two days later, Izwan took the boy, Mithran away and said that it was for the child's "protection".
Yesudas said because Izwan and Deepa were married under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, all issues of divorce, custody of children and other matters can only be decided under the same Act and cannot be circumvented by one spouse converting into Islam.
Saying the incident was not isolated, Yesudas said there had been other cases of a spouse embracing Islam after marriage and secretly converting the children without the knowledge of the non-Muslim spouse in order to gain custody via the Shariah Court.
"The police turning a blind eye to Izwan's criminal action sends the wrong message that the police are not willing to protect the rights of a non-Muslim spouse in the event of a custodial dispute.
"We remind the IGP that the Federal Constitution is still the supreme law of Malaysia and it is vital that all citizens, regardless of ethnicity or religion are treated equally, a right guaranteed under Article 8," she said.
She added that law and court judgments would be meaningless if police were allowed to "pick and choose" which laws to enforce.
She warned that citizens would take matters into their owns hands if they lose confidence in the police's ability to act impartially.
"We call upon the IGP to respect the rule of law and to apply it equally without discriminating on ethnicity or religion.
"If the IGP feels that he is unable to defend the rights of all Malaysians, and not just Malaysian Muslims, then he is not fit to lead the police force and should resign," she said.
Since the incident, Khalid had been under heavy fire for not going after Izwan.
Yesterday, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said the abduction turned from a sad family affair into a national controversy because Khalid refused to uphold the law.
Khalid had cited "two clashing court orders", saying the police's hands were tied because Izwan had obtained a custody order from the Shariah Court last year.
But Lim urged Khalid not to play politics.
Meanwhile, Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) chairman P. Waytha Moorthy said the duty of the police was keeping the peace, enforcing the law, protecting the people and property, and investigating crimes.
"In the case of Deepa, despite 20 police reports lodged against her ex-husband, the police do not take any action," Waytha said in a statement.
"Article 8 provides fundamental guarantee that a person is entitled to equal protection of the law. The Shariah law is meant for the Muslims and it is not a place for non- Muslims to seek justice nor do they want to do so."
Waytha urged leaders from both sides of the political divide to speak up for minority groups and uphold the constitutional rights of citizens.
"It is time to amend the respective laws of the country to make it compatible with provisions of the constitution. It is time the government recognises that non-Muslims who make up 45% of the population deserve the right to be treated equally for there can be no dignity without equality," he said.
Two former ministers in charge of the judiciary, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz and Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, had also taken the police to task for not taking action against Izwan when it was a clear-cut case of kidnapping.
In 2009, the Cabinet decided that children should be raised in the common religion at the time of marriage, should one of their parents convert to a different religion.
The decision, which was announced by Nazri, also states that a spouse who has converted to Islam must fulfil his or her marriage responsibilities and resolve issues according to civil marriage laws, and should refrain from using religion to escape marriage responsibilities.
Citing the cabinet decision, DAP vice-chairman Teresa Kok said Deepa’s case called for urgent action from the government to amend the laws to enforce the decision against unilateral conversion.
She said the police had no reason not to act and even the existence of two court orders cannot be an excuse for police inaction.
"I want to ask the IGP if he was not aware of the Cabinet’s decision against unilateral conversion, announced by Nazri, the former de facto law minister in 2009.
"Nazri made it very clear that any individual who wanted to convert religion must resolve all problems before converting. Izwan had obviously gone against this.
"How can the IGP 'condone' his kidnapping action after he had unilaterally converted his children?" Kok asked.
She said Khalid, as the nation’s top police officer, must not delay any further to do his duty.
Opposition lawmakers, including Gelang Patah MP Lim Kit Siang and Ipoh Barat MP M. Kula Segaran, have also criticised Khalid for his comments and demanded that he resign from the job. – April 14, 2014.
~ The Malaysian Insider

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