Time to re-look law, say politicians


(The Star) – Parliament has been urged to legislate and resolve the longstanding conflict between the rights of a convert and his former spouse, especially when it encompasses the rights and interest of their children.

MIC’s legal adviser Selva Mookiah said the danger of conflict was real and apparent as the country had two sets of laws.

“These courts of law often give consideration to differing principles.

“We live in a plural society which is multi-religious and often it’s the rights of the affected children which are trampled upon when their parents exercise their rights under the different laws.

“Both parents have legitimate expectations that their rights will be safeguarded. For the sake of the children, Parliament needs to take a non-partisan leadership in resolving this conflict permanently,” he said.

Thus, he said, it is especially pertinent for Parliament to act now, bearing in mind that there are those who are pursuing a parallel criminal hudud system which could further complicate matters.

MCA Youth chief Chong Sin Woon also urged lawmakers to “take the issue to Parliament and get a solution once and for all.”

“This two-law system is a serious problem, especially in a secular country.”

MCA Syariah Law and Policy Implementation special task force deputy chairman Datuk Koo Chin Nam said civil law had to prevail in legal disputes.

“The marriage was contracted by civil law and hence may only be dissolved by civil law. All matters related to the dissolution of marriage like matrimony, assets, and in particular, custody must be decided by civil law.”

MCA Religious Harmony Bureau chief and lawyer Datuk Ti Lian Ker also said parliamentarians had an obligation to clarify conversion issues.

“Lawmakers must stand up together above politics and do what is right by rectifying or remedying any conflict of laws. As far as the Constitution is concerned, it has never placed Syariah above civil law, especially when it involves non-Muslims.”

PAS legal bureau chief Hanifah Maidin said it was also time to re-look laws governing the conversion of married people with children as the conflict between Syariah and civil courts was a longstanding problem.

“When non-Muslims get married, they will register under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.

“If the husband or wife converts to Islam, he or she cannot go to civil court pertaining to family matters,” he said.

He added that the converted partner would have to go to Syariah court, thus leading to jurisdictional conflict between two courts.

Hanifah called for the law to be amended with just the civil court having jurisdiction.

“However, there should be a caveat, where the presiding judge should be assisted by an advisory council, which will look into Islamic matters.

“Such a solution may not solve the problem altogether, but it could minimise it,” he said.