KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 11: The Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act (amendment) Bill (LRA) has been the talk of the town over the past few days.
The Dewan Rakyat passed the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2017 aimed to amend the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 or (Act 164) early yesterday.
The bill was tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said for the second reading and debated by the Members of Parliament for over three hours and the winding up by Azalina for an hour.
In winding up the debate, Azalina said the amendment aimed to provide room for couples who married and had converted to Islam or one of them who is still a Muslim to file a petition for the dissolution of the marriage in the civil court.
She said it was to avoid action by either the husband or wife who did not want to terminate the marriage but did not execute any responsibility towards the spouse, their children or properties.
“It means that he has a choice, a person who converts to Islam is bound by the Islamic family law, that is his right but it is a question of the family he left behind.
“I am not married yet and I am also angry, for running away, not wanting to pay maintenance, using Islam when Islam is a responsible religion,” she said.
Azalina had also said the amendment did not deny the rights of a person in the Syariah Court, instead it encourages a person to be more responsible in divorcing the spouse in the Civil Court.
Opposition leaders and critics have condemned the withdrawal of Section 88A in the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act (amendment) Bill (LRA), which puts in place legal safeguards against unilateral conversions of minors to Islam.
MIC and its president Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam have also come under fire for how the party is handling the issue.
In a statement after the government announced the withdrawal of Section 88A, Dr Subramaniam, who is also Health Minister, said: “The current attempt to reintroduce the amendment without 88A, is to allow the public to get the benefit of the other amendments while, we contin ue relentlessly to address the issues of unilateral conversion.”
Hindraf chief P.Waytha Moorthy had described Dr Subramaniam’s statement as “utter rubbish”.
“Hindraf views the recent statement by the Health Minister that the attorney-general was of the opinion that the new section 88A proviso will involve a constitutional argument, and suggested that the constitutional concern is addressed first before this section could be included is utter rubbish
“Does the Minister even know the process on how a bill comes by after passing through the parliamentary draftsperson in the AG’s office, reviewed by the AG then passed on to the Cabinet for its approval before it becomes a bill to be tabled in the Parliament,” he had said.
Meanwhile, outspoken former law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim also took aim at the MIC president.
“Subra, don’t make big thing about the ability to dissolve civil marriage.
“You think Indira husband cares? Nothing he did could be undone,” he said referring to the case of M. Indira Gandhi whose child was taken away by her ex-husband Muhammad Riduan seven years ago.
Eight-year-old Prasana Diksa’s location remains unknown.
LOW HANGING FRUITS
Penang Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy had condemned Dr Subramaniam saying that: “It is indeed shocking to know that the leader of the MIC and current health minister S. Subramaniam would support the withdrawal of Amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act of 1976”.
“The MIC leader and Minister of Health Subramaniam sought to reassure the Indian community that they should accept the new bill for it contains safeguards to families if unilateral conversions take place.
“He apparently said that we should go for “low hanging fruits” first before we tackle the difficult ones later.
“I really wonder whether Subramaniam and other BN leaders think that non-Muslims are so gullible that they are ready to “swallow” whatever that is being dished out by them,” he chided
Meanwhile, DAP’s Ipoh Barat MP M. Kula Segaran, who was Indira Gandhi’s lawyer, said that the decision was disappointing, and had gone against promises the government made in 2009.
“You have sinned them!” he reportedly said.
Meanwhile, Tamil daily, Makkal Osai, today, questioned MIC’s credibility whether it can be trusted to represent the Indian community.
“Section 88A of the Act could have guarded the interests of Indians, who form the minority. The sudden withdrawal of this section only shows that the parties responsible have very little regard for the community,” said Tamil daily in its editorial, according to Malaysiakini.
“On which stage, can MIC preach to fight for Indian rights next time?” asked the editorial.
“You claim to have been fighting for the Indian community for the past 60 years. Is this how you ‘fight’?
You claim to champion the causes of the community, but whose cause do you fight? Umno’s?
“Do you realise that you have now become a slave for Umno? ” the editorial slammed MIC.