Debate on Unilateral Conversion Bill a Waste of Time Following Federal Court Ruling

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DAP national legal bureau chairman Ramkarpal Singh said today it is unnecessary to debate the Bill on the unilateral conversion of minors to Islam in the Selangor State Assembly.

He said this is due to the fact that a Federal Court ruling has determined such conversions require the consent of both parents, and as such, any state legislation is bound by the same ruling.

“The said Federal Court ruling in the case of Indira Gandhi a/p Mutho versus the Director of the Perak Islamic Department and others is clear and unambiguous and remains the law as it stands in the country today on the matter,” Ramkarpal said in a statement.

As a result, he added any such unilateral conversion would be unconstitutional as it would be contrary to the Federal Constitution.

“As such, debating a Bill which proposes a law which is clearly unconstitutional in the Selangor State Assembly would serve no purpose.

Yusof Mat Isa

“Furthermore, passing such a law in Selangor will cause unnecessary uncertainty as it may result in the application of a law which has been declared unconstitutional and of no effect,” said the Bukit Gelugor MP.

Although he acknowledged there is no restriction in debating a Bill which proposes a law which has been declared unconstitutional by the highest court of the land, doing so would be “a waste of time” per common sense.

“The said Federal Court ruling is final as it stands and should be respected. It is necessary for that ruling to be followed and debating a bill which is clearly contrary to the same in the Selangor State Assembly would certainly be a step in the wrong direction,” Ramkarpal said.

He was responding to a comment by fellow lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdullah, who argued in favour of the debate on the Bill as a legislative body cannot be stopped from tabling any amendments simply because of a prior court ruling, per the principle of separation of power.

Meanwhile, the Selangor government may still proceed to table the bill to amend a state enactment to allow for the unilateral conversion of minors in the next state assembly sitting, according to its Mentri Besar Amirudin Shari.

This is despite strong protests from several quarters, including state and national DAP leaders, who described the move as backwards-thinking.

“If there is a need, we will table (the bill in the next sitting),” he told reporters after attending a dinner with state PKR leaders, late last night.

“But there are opposing views to this matter. That’s why I feel it’s best we iron out all the issues (before tabling the bill),” he added.

Among others, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and state party chairperson Gobind Singh Deo had condemned the proposed amendment, maintaining that conversion of minors to Islam should only be allowed with the consent of both parents.

It was previously reported that Amirudin had initially pushed for the amendment to be tabled during the last state assembly sitting held last week, but Speaker Ng Suee Lim adjourned the sitting after just two days, from the initial nine days scheduled, leaving no space for the bill to be put up for debate.

Ng later responded by saying that there was no such bill on the order paper in the first place, and that the state assembly sitting had adjourned earlier as all matters had been concluded.

Amirudin, however, explained yesterday that he had initially given the mandate to Ng whether to include the bill in the order paper.

However, he said Ng had decided against the move, due to conflicting views from assemblymen.

“I gave the mandate to the Speaker to make a decision. We tried to bring it to the end of the sitting but unfortunately, something happened and there were some motions that were not tabled.

“So because of that it (unilateral conversion of minors bill) is overtaken by events,” he said.

Amirudin said following this, he would hold more discussions with stakeholders to explain the proposed amendment before considering to table it in the next state sitting.

“There’s still no final conclusion, and we need certain understanding among the state assemblymen. This is a big matter as it also involved the federal constitution,” he said.

Four non-Muslim state executive councillors also held an audience yesterday with the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, at Istana Bukit Kayangan to raise this issue, along with other matters.