MCA president Liow Tiong Lai has accused the Perlis government of sabotaging efforts by Putrajaya to end unilateral conversion of a child to another religion.
Liow said this in reference to the Perlis state assembly passing an amendment to the Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2006, allowing a minor to convert to Islam with the consent of one parent instead of both father and mother.
"Surely the Perlis government is aware that the federal government had only just recently tabled the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Amendment Bill 2016, which is to safeguard the unilateral conversion of minors.
"This amendment is unacceptable. It is not only a step backwards, but a direct challenge to what the federal government is trying to do at cabinet level.
"What is the Perlis menteri besar trying to prove?" Liow said in a statement published on Facebook.
He described the amendment by the Perlis state assembly, just two weeks after the tabling of the federal bill in Parliament, as "underhanded".
Liow stressed that the issue of unilateral child conversion was not a political or religious issue but that it is about justice.
"This is a matter that requires compassion and fair play.
"The conversion of a child by a parent, regardless of religion, in order to win custody after a failed marriage is without a doubt a gross miscarriage of justice.”
Lengthy custody battles
The issue of unilateral conversion has given rise to lengthy custody battles and has set the civil and syariah courts on collision course.
The federal government had, in the last Parliament sitting, sought to address the issue by tabling the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2016.
Under the proposed federal law amendment, if one parent converts to Islam, the child must remain in the original religion prior to the parent's conversion.
The child may only be converted to Islam if both parents consent to the child's conversion.
Perlis Menteri Besar Azlan Man defended the amendment of the state enactment, claiming that it was "spun out of context".
Azlan claimed the amendment had no legal effect as it was only a case of standardising the languages.
He pointed out that the English language of the law had used the word "parent" in the singular.
As such, Azlan said, the amendment to the Malay language version was to make it consistent with the English language version.- Mkini