7 AUGUST 2017
The sudden removal of s 88A of the bill to amend the Law Reform (Marriage & Divorce) Act, which had been scheduled to be read a second time, is another slap in the face for people of non-Muslim faiths. There had been hope at the end of a dark tunnel for many that this Bill would see an end to the unilateral conversion of minor children of other faiths to Islam, but true to BN practice, there has been yet another major flip-flop on this Bill.
The de facto Law Minister Azalina Othman Said was reported to have expressed hope that this development would be seen in a positive light to preserve harmony in Malaysia's multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. How is it possible that this last minute flip-flop by the BN can be seen in a positive light?
In September last year, Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz had said that the Bill to be tabled in the October Parliamentary sitting would bring the issue in line with the Cabinet’s decision in April 2009 to require both parents’ consent for the conversion of a child under the age of 18. Nazri Aziz had said then (in 2009) that the cabinet had decided that in the event of any dispute, a child must be raised in the faith professed by both parents at the time of marriage, and “A child’s religion must be in accordance to the common religion at the time of marriage between the parents.”
The Bill was opposed by PAS and some Muslim groups, and this about turn by the BN government is seen to be a political decision taken in the fear of the loss of support by the Muslims.
Once again, non-Muslims are faced with the prospect of the unilateral conversions of minor children by the converting parent and we can expect more cases like the one of Indira Gandhi’s, with the hope of a solution now gone.
This change of mind by the BN government shows that the PM and his BN ministers driven by the fear of losing the GE14, and place no importance on protecting the rights of all citizens to freedom of religion and equal rights.
The question is whether the BN coalition partners MCA, MIC, Gerakan and the other BN component parties in Sarawak and Sabah were consulted about the withdrawal of this Bill. How can they in good conscience continue to support and prop up this government that has shown no respect and regards for the rights of people of other races and religions. What is their response to the withdrawal of the Bill? Are they going to betray their own party members by continuing to support the BN government?
It is high time Najib and his BN/UMNO people be voted out as they have shown once again that they are incompetent and incapable of good governance.
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak / ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan