LAND­MARK BILL PASSED

Con­verts must now dis­solve their mar­riages in civil courts

New Straits Times - - Front Page - RE­PORT BY HANA NAZ HARUN, ARFA YUNUS AND TEH ATHIRA YU­SOF

THE De­wan Rakyat passed the Law Re­form (Mar­riage and Di­vorce) (Amend­ment) Bill 2017 (LRA) early yes­ter­day af­ter more than four hours of heated de­bates. The LRA, ini­tially with­drawn, then later pre­sented as a fresh bill, was passed at 12.45am. Min­is­ter in the Prime Min­is­ter's Depart­ment, Datuk Seri Aza­lina Oth­man Said, says it is the first step to­wards re­solv­ing cases of dis­so­lu­tion of mar­riage where one party has con­verted to Is­lam.

THE De­wan Rakyat had to “stop the clock” late on Wed­nes­day night to con­tinue de­bat­ing the Law Re­form (Mar­riage and Di­vorce) (Amend­ment) Bill 2017 (LRA) be­fore it was even­tu­ally passed early yes­ter­day.

The LRA, ini­tially with­drawn and later pre­sented as a fresh bill, was passed at 12.45am af­ter more than four hours of heated de­bate.

Min­is­ter in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Depart­ment Datuk Seri Aza­lina Oth­man Said said the pass­ing of the bill was the first step to­wards re­solv­ing cases of dis­so­lu­tion of mar­riage where one party had con­verted to Is­lam. The amend­ments in­clude the pass­ing of Sec­tion 51, which man­dates that the di­vorc­ing cou­ple must have their mar­riage dis­solved in a civil court.

Dur­ing the de­bate, DAP’s Ipoh Barat mem­ber of par­lia­ment M. Kula Se­garan urged the gov­ern­ment to re-in­sert Clause 88A into the bill.

He in­sisted that Clause 88A, which was re­moved on Mon­day, was not against the Fed­eral Con­sti­tu­tion.

“Say­ing that it (Clause 88A) is against the Con­sti­tu­tion is all a lie,” the lawyer said.

Clause 88A states that the re­li­gion of a child which is a prod­uct of the mar­riage “shall re­main as the re­li­gion of the par­ties to the mar­riage prior to the con­ver­sion”.

The clause also pro­vides that the child can, af­ter turn­ing 18 and with the con­sent of both par­ents, con­vert to Is­lam.

While de­liv­er­ing his ar­gu­ment, Kula ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of fail­ing to “keep its promise made in 2009”.

Aza­lina, how­ever, ex­plained that Clause 88A would not solve the is­sue, and more in-depth dis­cus­sions were needed in order to find a more com­pre­hen­sive so­lu­tion.

“I don’t be­lieve Sec­tion 88A would solve the con­ver­sion is­sue. This needs fur­ther and deeper dis­cus­sions. But this does not mean it is the end of the story.”

Pas Kuala Nerus MP Datuk Dr Khairud­din Aman Razali had ar­gued that the pro­posed amend­ments to the LRA con­tra­dicted the Is­lamic Fam­ily Law (Fed­eral Ter­ri­tory) Act 1984.

To this, Aza­lina called upon Mus­lim con­verts not to “hide be­hind syariah court judges” in the name of Is­lam, but to di­vorce their spouses re­spon­si­bly in the civil court.

She stressed that the amend­ments were not aimed at un­der­min­ing the pow­ers of the Syariah Courts, but to make sure a Mus­lim con­vert ful­fills his or her obli­ga­tions to the fam­ily.

“If you are a real man, then (carry out the) di­vorce prop­erly. Why do you want to be afraid? You can’t run and hide be­hind the syariah court judge.

“What about the wife, chil­dren and other mat­ters?”

Aza­lina said while she un­der­stood Khairud­din’s point of view, con­verted men should not be al­lowed to leave their fam­i­lies in a lurch, adding that it was wrong to con­vert to Is­lam and shirk their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, such as pay­ing al­imony.

“Yes, he’s Mus­lim. But should he just leave his fam­ily hang­ing? I am not mar­ried, but even I am an­gry.

“You get mar­ried then you con­vert, and then you run away from your re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, don’t want to pay al­imony af­ter con­vert­ing. Is­lam is a re­spon­si­ble re­li­gion.”

She gave an as­sur­ance that the amend­ments did not dent a con­vert’s rights un­der Is­lamic law but en­cour­aged him to be a gen­tle­man and set­tle his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties well.

Pas had tried to force a bloc vote to stop the amend­ment from be­ing passed, but the party’s at­tempt failed as it did not have the re­quired 15 MPs for Par­lia­ment to sup­port such a move.

It was fi­nally passed through a voice vote.

Datuk Seri Aza­lina Oth­man Said

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