The definition of the word ‘parent’ under the Federal Constitution must be clarified once and for all, Gerakan Youth deputy chief Andy Yong said today.
Yong told Malaysiakini that the move must be done in order to resolve issues of unilateral conversions.
“I reiterate that the problem lies with Article 12 (4) of the Federal Constitution, especially the Malay version.
“Therefore there is an urgent need to amend or clarify the said provision once and for all,” he stressed, adding that the matter had been debated in courts.
He said this in response to amendments to the Perlis Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2006 that allowed for the unilateral conversion of a child to Islam.
“Otherwise it will lead to floodgates where other states could follow suit on the Perlis state assembly’s decision,” Yong, who is also a lawyer, said.
The amendment was to the Malay language version of the Perlis state enactment which previously stated that a child below the age of 18 may convert to Islam with the consent of both "father and mother" or the guardian.
The term "father and mother" was replaced with "father or mother" in the amendment to Section 117(b) of the Enactment.
Article 12 (4) of the Federal Constitution reads that the religion of a minor shall be determined by a "parent".
Article 160, however, stated that words in the singular included the plural and vice versa, said Yong, who also pointed out that issues on the interpretation of the word "parent" has been raised and debated many times in court.
Alternatively, Yong said the Federal Court’s decision in M Indira Ghandi’s case two weeks ago would also solve the same problem.
While K Pathmanathan @ Mohd Ridhuan Abdullah was absent in the Federal Court proceedings over the unilateral conversion of his children, his former wife Indira Gandhi wanted the highest court in the country to re-visit the 2008 case of R Subashini to correctly define the word "parent" to mean both father and mother.
In Indira’s case, her husband had unilaterally converted their three children after he converted to Islam and also taken his daughter away when she was 11 months old, leading to a long protracted legal battle.
On proposed amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act mooted to resolve the issue, Yong said it was a good move but there were parties which had raised arguments on its constitutionality.- Mkini