The distressing story of Deepa and Izwan


Will the Federal Court pass the sword back to the Syariah Court to chop up the children’s hearts?

Ishmael Lim, Free Malaysia Today

It is never easy when a relationship falls apart. But when a family with kids implodes because the parents don’t get along, it is always the children who pay the heaviest price. Call them collateral damage, call them pawns or what you will. In the end, it is always the innocent pups who suffer the consequences of the grown-up war.

The story of Deepa Subramaniam and Izwan Abdullah @ Viran Nagapan is tragic. Their struggle for custody of their children is classic and representative of the deep chasm of bitterness between them. The tug of war for custodianship has drawn in NGOs, political parties, ministers, the Inspector-General of Police and even the Attorney-General.

While most family feuds passing through the court system never get picked-up by the media, this one had all the makings of a high profile case from day one simply because of religion.

Deepa and Viran were nineteen and twenty when they tied the knot in 2003. It was a civil marriage presumably with a Hindu ceremony. They were after all both Hindus. Their first born, Sharmila, arrived in their third year of marriage. Then Mithran followed in the sixth.

It is unclear when their relationship started to slide or why. But violence points to a possible cause. According to Deepa, Izwan disappeared for sixteen months, leaving the family to fend for itself. Clearly not a sign of good parenting skills. So the violence must have preceded his 16-month absence. Twenty police reports were made against him for domestic violence and an Interim Protection Order (IPO) issued by the Seremban magistrate’s court still bars him from approaching Deepa’s residence.

Anecdotal accounts by Deepa’s mother decribes Izwan as being a womaniser and unable to hold on to a steady job. So how is he paying for his legal representation all the way to the Federal Court? His defence team at the Court of Appeal phase comprised six lawyers. What is their interest in this when the aggrieved party is so clearly the mother who had her son snatched from her forcefully in front of her home? He was clearly in breach of the valid IPO.

Some time in 2011/2012 Viran found his new faith and became Izwan. In the same period he unilaterally converted his children to his new faith without the knowledge or consent of their mother. According to the Federal Constitution “any one parent” has the right to determine the religion of a child under 18. Thus a conversion can be done legally without the consent of the other (even if the justice or ethics of it may be questionable). After the conversion there are few options left for the objecting parent as the Syariah Court already recognises the converts as Muslims and the objecting parent has no standing in the court. The trap is sprung. Deepa gets the divorce and custody of the children from the Seremban High Court. Two days later Izwan snatches away the boy and Deepa lives in constant fear of losing the girl also.