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Monday, August 7, 2017

'Withdrawal of unilateral conversion bill shows BN desperate to appease PAS'

It appears that the BN ruling government is desperate to appease PAS to avoid straining their relationship before the next general election, said Klang MP Charles Santiago. 
The DAP lawmaker, in a statement, said this seems to be the reason behind the sudden withdrawal of a proposed amendment to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (LRA) which intended to put an end to the unilateral conversion of minors.
“Nor can Umno take chances with the Malay Muslim voters, who form a huge chunk of its vote bank," he said, adding that the "upsetting" withdrawal of the proposed amendment "rips off the rights of the non-Muslim parent". 
Santiago urged BN to clarify the sudden withdrawal of the bill, as representatives from Umno, MCA and MIC had sat on an informal panel to resolve inter-faith child custody conflicts.
“It is also suspect given that the second reading of the Bill was suspended twice,” he said.
Yesterday, de facto Law Minister Azalina Othman Said said the proposal to introduce Section 88A will be scrapped from the Bill to amend the LRA.
She explained that the decision was made to avoid a conflict with any provision of the Federal Constitution.
However, Santiago called this “mere nonsense”, as the government was supportive of PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s private member’s bill to amend Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 or Act 355.
Abdul Hadi’s bill seeks to increase the power of the syariah courts to impose more stringent punishments, which Santiago said is against the Federal Constitution.
“So we are back to square one: why did the government withdraw the Bill suddenly?
“However embarrassing the answer may be, the government owes us the truth,” he said.

The proposed Section 88A, which was scrapped, read as follows:
“Section 88a. (1) Where a party to a marriage has converted to Islam, the religion of any child of the marriage shall remain as the religion of the parties to the marriage prior to the conversion, except where both parties to the marriage agree to a conversion of the child to Islam, subject always to the wishes of the child where he or she has attained the age of eighteen years.
(2) Where the parties to the marriage professed different religions prior to the conversion of one spouse to Islam, a child of the marriage shall be at liberty to remain in the religion of either one of the prior religions of the parties before the conversion to Islam.”
PAS had also lauded the withdrawal, with the party deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man saying that any bill should be considered from a religious perspective before being brought to Parliament. - Mkini

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