Saturday, January 21, 2006

Pak Lah: No Need to Amend Article 121 (1a)

BERNAMA reports, Malaysian Premier Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the Article 121 (1a) of the Federal Constitution governing the powers of the civil and syariah courts need not be amended.
"Only laws that can create problems and misinterpretations should be studied whether they should be amended to make them clearer,"

The Premier was asked to comment on the matter following a joint memorandum submitted by 10 non-Muslim cabinet ministers to him, urging to review laws related to conversion of religion.

The memorandum, among others, was signed by Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik, Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.

Article 121 (1a) states that the Civil Court has no jurisdiction on matters under the purview of the Syariah Court.

The religion conversion issue surfaced following the death of Mount Everest climber Sgt M. Moorthy or Muhammad Abdullah when his widow S. Kaliammal and the Federal Territories Religious Department [JAWI] were involved in a dispute over his burial.

Moorthy who died on December 20 was finally buried by JAWI on December 28, 2005 following the decision by the Syariah High Court that he was a Muslim while the High Court ruled that it had no power to intervene in the Syariah High Court's decision citing Article 121.

The decision sparked dissatisfaction among certain groups.

One of the issues arising from the Moorthy case was whether non-Muslims had legal redress on matters relating to Islam. Abdullah said they had recourse in the Syariah court. The non-Muslims can attend the Syariah court but they are reluctant to do so.

Abdullah said Article 121 (1a) had drawn all sorts of reaction and views from the public.But the article need not be amended.
Abdullah also clarified his statement several days ago where he was quoted as saying that laws of the country have to be made clear on religious conversions. "When I said the laws had to be clear I was not referring to conversion. I said if there were any laws that brought hardship to the people or if there was room for misinterpretation, then we will look at it if it needs to be amended. I was not referring to any specific Act or law.”

On the memorandum by non-Muslim ministers, Abdullah said he accepted it with an open mind "but actually if there are problems, they should raise them in the cabinet meeting rather than sending their proposals in the form of memorandum to me, I prefer that way, since they have sent it to me, I will bring it up in the cabinet,”

Abdullah said he did not know why the ministers acted in that manner but may be they probably wanted to convey their proposals jointly.

The ministers would be allowed to speak on the issue in the next cabinet meeting, he said, adding that the issue should be discussed objectively, not emotionally and by not raising matters that could arouse people's racial and religious sensitivities.
Deputy Premier Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the action by nine non-Muslim Cabinet ministers in submitting a memorandum to the Prime Minister calling for a review of laws that affect the rights of non-Muslims was "improper" and "not nice". "It is against the Cabinet system and unprecedented,"

The words of Pak lah and Najib were very strong!! The debate should now be over.It was truncated by the usual burst of emotion, rash language and point-scoring that follows every discussion on race and religion in Malaysia. They should rather come to their senses.

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