Pressure is growing on the DPM as more activists demand she explains why there is still no action taken against the man who sexually groomed an 11-year-old girl in Kelantan.
There is no excuse for Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to delay prosecution against the 41-year-old man who married an 11-year-old, as the facts are clear that he sexually groomed the girl, Lawyers of Liberty said.
Its executive director Latheefa Koya released a scathing statement against Wan Azizah who on Tuesday (July 31) said more investigation was needed to “build a water-tight case” and that she was in discussion with the Attorney General Chambers.
“The facts are not in dispute; the paedophile 41-year-old suspect has already admitted to lusting after this child since she was seven years old, has tried to contract a marriage with her, and most sickeningly, had cohabited with the child,” Latheefa said in a statement on Wednesday (Aug 1).
Wan Azizah also said action taken must be evidence-based and not solely on media reports or hearsay.
“Why is Wan Azizah giving the excuse of ‘hearsay’ when the facts are well established and admitted even by the perpetrator?” Latheefa asked.
She said there was no “complexity” as claimed by the Women, Family and Community Development Minister and that the facts pointed to a serious offence of sexual grooming under the Sexual Offences Act 2017.
“There is no reasonable excuse for failing to enforce the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act to the fullest extent in this shocking and obvious case,” she added.
Latheefa slammed Wan Azizah for complicating matters, delaying action, and for passing the buck to the Attorney-General.
“She herself as the Minister in charge must explain the reasons why no prosecution has been brought, as the A-G is not in Parliament to do so,” she said.
“Wan Azizah’s excuse that the investigation is still ongoing and that she cannot comment further may have been acceptable a month ago, but it is intolerable now,” she added.
In the face of a sex crime upon a helpless child that has outraged the nation, Wan Azizah continues to give untenable excuses whilst the perpetrator walks free and unpunished, to the increasing anger and disgust of the public, laments Latheefa.
“The minister must not dither and leave Malaysia in the lurch as the case has become international news,” she said.
The marriage of rubber dealer Che Abdul Karim Che Abdul Hamid to Masaryu Mat Rashid had stirred a national controversy, with the girl’s parents giving their blessing to the union despite condemnation by human rights groups.
At least on this one issue, female politicians on both sides of the divide want action taken on Karim.
Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said (BN-Pengerang) said that he should be charged under the Sexual Offenses Against Children Act 2017 instead of using Islamic jurisprudence.
“Don’t go through the Islamic law but as a sexual crime. The girl may be a Thai national but a crime is still a crime,” Azalina said.
Kasthuriraani Patto (PH-Batu Kawan) also called for criminal action against the man, as he had admitted to harbouring interest in the girl when she was only seven years old, and had groomed her into agreeing to marry him.
Prominent activist Marina Mahathir has also added to the chorus of criticism against Wan Azizah.
“How much more watertight evidence do we need?” she asked on Facebook. “This 41-year-old man has been interested in her since she was 7 and married her at 11…that’s all the evidence you need!”
A coalition of civil society groups has also jumped onto the bandwagon, condemning Wan Azizah’s inaction.
The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) said it is “outraged” that Wan Azizah, who is also women, family and community development minister, insists that further investigations are needed to gather evidence to charge the Kelantanese man.
“This insistence on investigations, which has gone on for more than a month, reflects a lack of political will to take action against the man and protect the 11-year-old girl.”
JAG comprises 13 women’s rights organisations nationwide. They include the All Women’s Action Society, Association of Women Lawyers, Foreign Spouses Support Group, Perak Women for Women, Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor, Sabah Women Action Resource Group, Sisters in Islam, Women’s Centre for Change, and Women’s Aid Organisation.
The coalition has compiled a list of “mounting evidence” of violations, which it urges the authorities to act on. They include:
- The Kelantanese man has publicly confessed that he had planned to marry the girl since she was 7, which points to child sexual grooming, an offence under the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017;
- The “marriage” does not fulfil Section 23 of the Kelantanese Islamic Family Law Enactment 2002, which is also covered by “hukum syarak”. The man’s second wife has publicly stated that her husband is unable to provide for their family, and unfairly favours his third “wife” – the 11-year-old – over his first two wives;
- The marriage certificate produced by Thai authorities has been found to be fake. JAG said swift action must be taken to ensure further manipulation does not happen to validate the marriage; and,
- Child marriages violate international instruments that have been ratified by Malaysia, particularly the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“JAG is extremely concerned about the current situation, where the girl remains exposed to the man and the results of the medical tests that the girl has undergone.
“Should there be signs of grooming, violations and abuse, the relevant ministries and departments must move swiftly to ensure that the matter is addressed and not covered up, whether the marriage is deemed legal or otherwise.”
The coalition added that police reports lodged by the man’s second wife have “fallen on deaf ears”.
It said the girl must be immediately separated from the man, as he poses a physical and emotional threat.
“Regardless of her nationality, we must act in the child’s best interest in all steps of the case.”