Let me just rant.
If you read the title above with a Malaysian-Chinese accent, you’ll get the effect.
What is unique about our Federal Constitution and the laws made under it? That it has both the “secular” and “Islamic” features. The “secular features include Articles that give the Federal Constitution its supreme status, that the provision of Islam as THE religion of the Federation of Malaysia does not depart from any other provision, that the Syariah courts have limited authority, so on and so forth. Meanwhile, its theocratic features include provisions that allows the independent nature of the Syariah courts from the civil courts (Article 121 (1A)), ALL Muslims are subject to the Syariah laws, State support for Islamic religious institutions, preaching of any religion to Muslims is regulated, that the concept of Malay and the religion of Islam are intertwined, and several other provisions made pertaining to Islam being the religion of the Federation. Bear in mind that Articles 4(1) and 162(6) of the Federal Constitution affirm the supremacy of the Federal Constitution over Parliament – contrary to popular belief.
Now, what am I ranting about? Initially, I wanted to rant about ESSCOM and the latest kidnapping, but since two recent issues are more pressing than Mentek’s failure-blame-placed-on-the-police-army-and-navy issue. They are the comment made by Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, the Inspector-General of Police on the issue of the custody of two children to two sets of parents of different religion as well as Menteri Besar of Selangor’s plan to seek audience with HRH The Sultan of Selangor on the possible return of Bibles confiscated by MAIS/JAIS to the Bible Society of Malaysia.
A bit of background on the first issue: custody. Two couples namely Muslim-convert Izwan Abdullah and ex-wife S.Deepa, and M. Indira Gandhi and her ex-husband, also a Muslim-convert Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah. Both men converted to Islam without the knowledge of their respective wife resulting in the latter claiming for custody of their children. Well, it is slightly more complicated than how I have described the case but that is the gist of it. The civil courts have granted custody to the wives while the Syariah courts sided with the husbands. In both cases, the children were converted to Islam without the respective wife’s prior knowledge.
How did the IGP get into the line of fire? The IGP has refused calls from certain quarters of the public to get the Royal Malaysian Police involved by upholding the various courts order and suggested for the Welfare Department to take custody of the children instead.
I agree with the IGP that the police should not get involved in the custody struggle, but on the other hand the police cannot ignore an arrest warrant issued by the court. The dilemma here is that the police is expected to uphold both laws, civil and syariah. However, we must all look at the broader picture. What the IGP said is right. The children in the custody fights should be under the care of the Welfare Department. People from the Welfare Department who say otherwise are either ignorant of the law, or are just trying to wash their hands in this matter. Section 17(1)(h) says that a child is in need of care and protection if there is a conflict between the child and his parents or guardians, that family relationships are seriously disrupted, thereby causing the child emotional injury. Section 18 of the same Act gives the provision for the Welfare Department to take the child into temporary custody.
Why am I in agreeable with this measure? Even with Ridzuan arrested and placed in custody for contempt of court, he is still entitled to the normal legal channels and can file an appeal against the custody order made in favour of his ex-wife by the High Court. Only when ALL legal channels have been exhausted, and a final court decision has been made regarding these two cases then the Police should carry out the final order. With the children in custody of the State, the parents can have equal and neutral access to the children at pre-determined times, regulated by the Welfare Department. All conversions should go through a process where the original Identification Card be held by the religious officer performing the conversion, and the conversion to be registered at the National Registration Department for the converted to receive an Identification Card. The process should also include a meeting with the spouse/family of the person wanting to convert before any conversion to take place.
Now, back to the issue of the confiscated Bibles.
I have written at length on this issue earlier this year. I even provided the background why they can use Allah in Sabah, Sarawak and even Indonesia but not in Peninsular Malaysia here ,here and here.
The Majlis Agama Islam of Selangor (Selangor Islamic Religious Council) and the Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (Selangor Islamic Religious Department) or known to many simply as MAIS and JAIS respectively, are adamant to uphold the Control and Restriction on the Propagation of Non-Islamic Religions Enactment, 1988 under which the Bibles in the Malay language are confiscated. May I remind everyone that the Enactment is a strict-liability State law, and not a law made under the Syariah context. It applies to all, non-Muslims and Muslims alike. On 11th June, the Attorney-General, Abdul Gani Patail announced that JAIS had erred in seizing the Bibles, and that no charges would be made, rendering the case closed.
Just as I thought the A-G as a useless human being in this particular post, I strongly believe that the statement he made and how he came to this decision are driven by grave errors. Firstly, the A-G had made irrelevant introductions to the case by treating the case as one that involves national security. This is because the A-G’s Chambers had recorded statements made by Home Ministry officials indicating that the Bibles do not fall under their purview, therefore do not involve national security. This, my dear A-G, is not about national security. It is about the dangers to public order and moral. Due to the statement made by the A-G on this matter, the Menteri Besar of Selangor, Khalid Ibrahim, will be meeting His Royal Highness the Sultan of Selangor to discuss the issue of returning the Bibles to the Bible Society of Malaysia. Making matters worse is the Prime Minister himself has seen fit to get involved in the melee that is a State prerogative by suggesting that MAIS meet up with the A-G to discuss way forward.
Here is what MAIS and JAIS should do in the case of the useless Attorney-General: go to court and apply for a writ of mandamus to compel Gani Patail to do the right thing. Gani has erroneously digressed from the crux of the issue and have added to the confusion of many, with the possibility of creating a wrong precedence. The A-G as a public officer should have carefully studied the issue AS IT IS, and not introduce irrelevant matters such as national security before coming to a decision.
May I remind MAIS that in the case of the A-G, to refer to Teh Cheng Poh @ Char Meh v. PP case where Lord Diplock who was a member of the Privy Council opined in 1978 that the Attorney-General had erred in allowing for the trial of a 14-year old juvenile in the High Court. The 14-year old was represented by the late Karpal Singh. Therefore, MAIS should apply for a writ of mandamus. Meanwhile, MAIS should also file a police report against Shah Alam MP, Khalid Samad, who suggested that MAIS’s authority over JAIS be removed, effectively usurping the powers of the Sultan of Selangor in an unconstitutional manner.
In both cases mentioned above, the rule of law must prevail and should not be allowed to be manipulated by anyone, especially by the politicians, and cool heads should prevail. Government agencies should also act without fear or favour in exercising the provisions of the law. Meanwhile, public officers who cannot perform tasks expected of them should be removed.