Deputy Prime Minister heavily criticised for her apparently conciliatory tone on the incident where a 41-year-old Malaysian man married an 11-year-old Thai girl.
Civil rights NGO Lawyers for Liberty has taken Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to task for calling on the public not to “lynch” the man on social media and for describing the marriage as an “alleged incident”.
“Firstly, it is impossible to understand what the DPM means by ‘alleged incident’.
“The culprit himself has admitted to the marriage and has been fined for it.“Worse, he has also publicly admitted to lusting after the child victim since she was seven years old.
“It appears to be another attempt by the DPM to downplay this outrageous case,” Executive Director of Liberty Latheefa Koya said in a statement on Wednesday (July 18).
“Earlier, Dr Wan Azizah had asked that the family’s ‘privacy’ be protected, and compared it to her experience when her husband was a prisoner.
“It is absurd to be talking about privacy issues when a serious sexual crime has been perpetrated upon a child,” she added.
In a statement Tuesday (July 17), Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said her ministry was coordinating multiple investigations by various agencies into the incident.
She added that it was unwise to prejudge the issue before all the evidence is brought together and the investigation is complete.
“The actions we take in dealing with this alleged incident of child marriage must be based on evidence. We will issue a statement on this matter only after the investigation is complete,” she said.
Dr Wan Azizah added that while the ministry understood the outrage this incident had caused, it was important to not let personal feelings dictate the course of action that should be taken.
“It would be unjust to lynch someone by social media because of how we feel about the issue,” she said.
Latheefa described Dr Wan Azizah’s call to the public not to lynch the culprit on social media as “incomprehensible”, given that the man has admitted to the marriage.
“Why defend this self-confessed pervert by claiming that the concerned public are ‘lynching’ him?” she said.
Latheefa then asked if Dr Wan Azizah was trying to stifle public opinion on the matter, and insisted that the public backlash against the man was justified.
She also asked Dr Wan Azizah the need for an investigation when the concept of child marriage is legally and morally wrong.
“The public are entitled to criticise the actions of the culprit and call for an end to child marriages in Malaysia. This discussion is important and should be encouraged.
“Further, it is baffling that Dr Wan Azizah still claims that multiple agencies are investigating the matter.
“The facts are clear, and the perpetrator has confessed. What is the necessity for an interminable and ponderous investigation in this case? The public rightly want action taken, not more excuses and stalling,” she added.
Insisting that she is strongly against child marriage, Dr Wan Azizah had previously also said that the issue is legally “complicated,” and that the authorities are powerless to act until there is a law banning child marriage in place.
The issue of child marriages became a hot topic after the 41-year-old man married the 11-year-old girl in Narathiwat, Thailand.
The Syariah Court in Gua Musang imposed a mere RM1,800 fine on the man after he pleaded guilty to marrying the underage child without consent from the court and committing polygamy without the consent and agreement of his two wives.
The G25 group of influential former civil servants has urged the Government to make child marriages a federal crime.
“This poor child remains in the hands of a self-confessed paedophile, to the international embarrassment of our country.
“Why has this child not been rescued yet by the authorities?” said Latheefa.
The lawyer also questioned why a ban had not been announced on such marriages in the wake of this case.
“More surprising is that no arrest has been made under anti-child-grooming provisions in the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017.
“The continued failure to take concrete action on this case is an affront against justice, decency and the rule of law,” she added.