Thursday, April 6, 2017

Unilateral conversion reforms postponed, gov't slammed

Zikri Kamarulzaman     Published     Updated
Law reforms meant to prevent unilateral conversion have been postponed to the next Parliament session.

The Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill was among five government motions in the Dewan Rakyat which was postponed after a marathon session in Parliament ended at 5.05am.

The only motions left in the House order paper are from the opposition, starting with PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang's bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act.

Indira Gandhi, whose legal battle for the custody of her three children who were unilaterally converted by her ex-husband has made headlines for the past eight years, lamented the development.

"I am sad and disappointed, I have been waiting for eight years.

"Assurance after assurance were made and I was happy when it came to Parliament.

"(But now) when can I move on with my life? How many more years do I have to wait?" a distraught Indira said at a press conference in the Parliament media room today.

The bill sought among others, to resolve problems regarding unilateral conversion.

First tabled in November last year, the bill seeks to resolve problems arising from divorce and child custody issues after a spouse has converted to Islam.

The bill seeks to include a new provision that stipulates that the religion of any child of a civil marriage shall maintain the same, even if one spouse converts to Islam, with the exception that both parents agree to the conversion with the child's consent.

The bill was tabled after continued pressure over cases such as Indira's and S Dheepa's, whose ex-husbands converted to Islam and unilaterally converted their children, leading to prolonged custody battles.

Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran, who was also at the press conference, said he was assured by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi that the bill would come to pass in this current parliament session.

"I spoke to Zahid, he assured there would be no hindrance and that no one can stop it," Kulasegaran said.

Zahid had made the assurance on Tuesday, saying it was in the country's interest.

Kulasegaran added that he was seeking to meet Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak urgently, so that the bill can be brought to the House today.

Today is the last seating for the last meeting of the Dewan Rakyat.

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