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Abdullah should agree to the establishment of separate Parliamentary Select Committees on Article 121(1A) of Federal Constitution and the Islamic Family Law Act


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

Parliament, Thursday): The Cabinet decision not to gazette the controversial Islamic  Family Law (Federal Territories)(Amendment) Bill 2005 until another round of discussions with the possibility of amendment is welcome.

So too is the Cabinet decision for a review of the legal issues on religious conversion arising from the M. Moorthy case revolving around Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution.


In both cases, there should be the fullest involvement of all interested groups and sections of society as well as interested NGOs to rectify gross injustices and redress human rights violations – and for this reason, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should respond positively to calls for the establishment of separate Parliamentary Select Committees on the Islamic Famil Law Act and Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution and other proposals relating to the two controversies.


Apart from a Parliamentary Select Committee on Islamic Family Law, women’s groups have also called for a moratorium in the implementation of the legislation in all the other states.


The annual  Conference of Bishops of Malaysia which ended in Johore Baru on Wednesday had also joined the Parliamentary Roundtable last Thursday in calling for a Parliamentary Select Committee into Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution relating to rights to remedy of non-Muslims in  civil courts in matters affecting non-Muslims, including problems arising from religious conversions.


It is most unsatisfactory that the Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail  has been given the sole task of examining existing laws and the Constitution to see if any change or clarification is necessary, as the Attorney-General’s Chambers through its Senior Crown Counsel  Mohd Nasir Isa had already taken the stand in the M. Moorthy case in the High Court that Moorthy’s widow,  S. Kaliammal has no remedy whether in civil or Syariah courts under Article 121(1A).


Is Gani Patail prepared to repudiate the stand taken by Mohd Nasir in the High Court as a wrong and incorrect one, and reiterate the position of Tan Sri Abu Talib, the  Attorney-General responsible for Article 121(1A) in the 1988 Constitution Amendment, that Article 121(1A) was only meant to resolve the conflict between civil and Syariah courts affecting both parties who are Muslims, and not to adversely take away the constitutional rights of non-Muslims not to be adversely affected by Syariah courts – one of the cardinal principles of the “social contract” when the nation achieved Independence in 1957?


Until a full and final solution is worked out to the controversy over Article 121(1A), there should be a satisfactory mechanism to ensure that unseemly  tussles over a corpse as happened in the M. Moorthy case would not recur, as it is not conducive to national unity or religious harmony.


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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