MCA slams Perlis for passing law allowing unilateral conversions

MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong says the Perlis state lawmakers should have followed the LRA Bill to be in line with the federal Bill rather than trying to subjugate the LRA Bill. ― File pic
MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong says the Perlis state lawmakers should have followed the LRA Bill to be in line with the federal Bill rather than trying to subjugate the LRA Bill. ― File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 9 ― MCA has criticised the Perlis state legislative assembly for amending an enactment to allow children to be converted to Islam with the consent of one parent.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) component party said the amendment to the Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2006, which was passed in the 15-seat state legislative assembly yesterday after one PAS and 12 Umno representatives voted for it, contravened the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Bill 2016 that the federal government had tabled in Parliament last month.

The amendment to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act (LRA) included a new Section 88A that states that a child below 18 years will remain in the religion of the parents at the time of their marriage should one parent convert to Islam after, and that any conversion of the minor to Islam can only be done with the approval of “both parties” in the civil marriage.

“The LRA Bill had its first reading on 21 April 2016. The Perlis state lawmakers should have followed the LRA Bill to be in line with the federal Bill rather than trying to subjugate the LRA Bill,” MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong said in a statement released today.

“While Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution reads that a minor child's religion shall be determined by ‘parent’, Article 160, the 11th Schedule of the Federal Constitution on interpretation clearly spells out that words in the singular includes the plural and vice versa.

“Thus, any state or federal legislation or government policy or guideline which do not abide with the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of the land, is ultra vires the Federal Constitution and must be rendered null and void,” the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department added.

The Star reported that the Malay language version of Section 117 of the Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2006 in Perlis had been amended. The phrase in the Malay version reading “father and mother or guardian” was changed to “father or mother or guardian” to consent to the conversion of a child below the age of 18 to Islam.

Perlis Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azlan Man, who tabled the amendment, reportedly said Section 117 was amended to be consistent with the English version of the Enactment that used the word “parent”.

Section 117(b) states that a non-Muslim may convert to Islam if of sound mind and “if he has not attained the age of eighteen years, his parent or guardian consents to his conversion”.

Azlan also claimed that the amendment was consistent with Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution that uses the term “parent”, even though the 11th Schedule states that “words importing the masculine gender include females” and “words in the singular include the plural, and words in the plural include the singular”.

Titi Tinggi state assemblyman Khaw Hock Kong from MCA reportedly walked out of the assembly to protest the amendment, while Indera Kayangan representative Chan Ming Kai from PKR voted against it.

“Our party leadership is of the view that YB Khaw should have expressed our party's firm position of ‘ibubapa’ during the debate inside the Perlis state legislative assembly.

“Our MCA President Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai has summoned YB Khaw to provide an explanation to the MCA Central Committee which will convene a CC meeting on Monday, 12 Dec 2016,” said Wee.

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