Court blocks Maips from intervening in Loh Siew Hong’s divorce case

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The Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (Maips) is now unable to access the three unilaterally converted children of Loh Siew Hong.

Susan Loone/Malaysiakini

The civil court this afternoon dismissed the state religious body’s application to intervene in the divorce proceedings between Loh and her Muslim-convert former husband.

Judge Evrol Mariette Peters ruled that Maips has failed to prove that it is an interested party in relation to the betterment of the children’s lives.

She reiterated that her ruling today would still be the same regardless of the religious status of the children.

The judge noted that in the event that the children’s conversion was done properly, Maips would still not be allowed to intervene because the body only has jurisdiction for Muslims in Perlis.

“The fact of the matter is that the children do not belong to the community in Perlis.

“They live in Selangor and their connection to Perlis is transitory as that is where they were taken to be converted,” Peters said.

The judge also said that the children are not orphans as they are now under the full custody and care of Loh, adding that Maips failed to prove that the single mother did not ensure her children still continue to receive religious education.

She noted that the state religious body had also failed to seek the views of the former husband in relation to the bid to vary Loh’s full custody order.

Peters emphasised that the civil family’s role to safeguard the interest of the children can be seen in the analogy of inviting guests into the family home.

“The application to seek leave (to intervene in Loh’s divorce proceedings is (equivalent of) asking the court (with Maips as the hypothetical guest) as a dinner host to enter the home and eventually sit at dinner with the family.

“The host here is the family court who has to be cautious of the guest that is invited to dinner as there are children in the house that needs to be protected

“If (the host) is cautious of the guest, then it is better not to allow them to enter as that not only would waste the time of the guest but also the host.

“My decision is even if the children are in fact Muslims, this (intervener) application (by Maips) must fail as the proposed intervener failed to show it is an interested person,” Peters ruled as Loh looked on from the public gallery.

The judge then ordered Maips to pay RM8,000 in costs to Loh.

Maips previously filed for leave to intervene in the civil court matter so that it would have legal standing to seek to modify Loh’s custody order over her three children, who were converted into Islam by their father Muhammad Nagahswaran Muniandy, 35.

The state religious body was represented by counsel Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, while lawyers A Srimurugan and Shamsher Singh Thind acted for Loh.

Later in proceedings, Nagahswaran’s counsel Malcolm Fernandez told the court regarding their incarcerated client’s request to communicate with the children via video call.

The civil court granted full custody to the single mother on March 31 last year and decree nisi (to annul Loh’s marriage to Nagahswaran) on Sept 23 last year.

Fernandez said the application seeks to allow the father – currently serving a jail term in Machang, Kelantan – to speak to the three children via online video call.

It is understood that Nagahswaran is set to finish his prison term sometime later this year.

“He (Nagahswaran) just wants to speak to the children. I met the father in prison, he has the letters from the children on the (prison) wall.

“We just wish to seek from this court to allow the father to speak to the children,” Fernandez said.

Srimurugan then told the court that he needs to speak to Loh about this.

Peters then set July 4 for further case management of the case.

Nagahswaran was alleged to have run away with the children and carried out the conversion in July 2020 without Loh’s consent and knowledge.

Loh’s separate legal bid to strike down her children’s Islamic conversion is fixed for decision before another Kuala Lumpur High Court on Aug 1.

On Feb 21, the Kuala Lumpur High Court (criminal jurisdiction) allowed her habeas corpus application to be reunited with her three children. – Malaysiakini