Hindraf has urged the Raja Perlis Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Tuanku Syed Putra Jalalullai to veto the state the Islamic Religion Administration Enactment (Amendment) 2016 on unilateral conversion.
Hindraf national chairman P. Waytha Moorthy argued that the amendment was clearly in conflict with the Federal Constitution’s Article 8 as gender discrimination was involved and the guardianship of Infants Act 1961, where Sections 5 and 11 explicitly guaranteed the rights of both parents to determine the upbringing of a child below 18 years old.
“The amendments have created much anguish and anxiety among non-Muslims, said Waytha in his letter dated Dec 19, 2016, to Raja Perlis.
He noted that Malaysia’s 1995 ratification of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has put it in an awkward position where these treaties contained clear and unequivocal provisions that obliged state parties, such as Malaysia, to ensure that each parent had equal rights.
“Hindraf strongly believes under no circumstances should either parent be allowed to unilaterally convert any child into any particular religion,” said Waytha.
Irrespective of the current proposed federal list of amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act (LRA) 1976, he said the Raja Perlis as head of Islam in his state had all the power to veto the current state unilateral conversion amendment bill when it comes for his royal assent.
The federal amendments to LRA are expected to be tabled in the Parliament in the first quarter of 2017, which would mandate both parents consent for a child conversion.
“Although we do note that the privilege of ability for royal veto had somewhat been eroded in the Federal Constitution, nonetheless we believe as the head of the religion of Islam in Perlis, Your Highness has a right to return the amendment bill to the state Assembly with objections that were well justified in this instance.
“We do believe that Your Highness would denounce all forms of extremism, chauvinism, racism and isolationism as a whole as well as protecting the original covenants of our Federal Constitution and desire of the forefathers to continue in the spirit that it was built on and created without being further imperiled by ideological and extremism, be it race or religion or haphazard executives and politicians.”
Waytha believes that the continued effort by the Royal Highness in such socially sensitive issues would augur well on his role as a bipartisan voice above party politics committed to justice and fairness for all his citizens.
He said, in addition, it will help to repair frayed social fabric without such causing a tumultuous relationship between the Muslim and non-Muslim community.
On Dec 8, the Perlis Legislative Assembly passed amendments to the Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2016.
Section 117 was changed, with the phrase in the Malay version reading “father and mother or guardian” to “father or mother or guardian” which gives permission for children under the age of 18 to be converted to Islam.
However, Perlis Mentri Besar Azlan Man said that Section 117 was amended to be consistent with the English version of the enactment where the word “parent” was used as an alternative to “parents”.