Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hasty laws, nasty consequences - Child Conversion Bill

JULY 02, 2013
Elections can come and go but some things will never change: for one, the deeply flawed and arbitrary manner in which laws are cobbled together in Malaysia.
Take the controversial Section 103 of the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Bill. Listening to Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin defend the Bill in the Parliament lobby yesterday was a cringe-worthy experience.
He said that the Cabinet was aware of the objections raised by Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties and non-government organisations and would take it into account in discussions to follow. The Deputy Prime Minister assured all that the Cabinet would be just.
This sounds like a perfect case of putting the cart before the horse. This is how the process of legislation should be done- first a period of consultation and feedback; drawing up a draft of the Bill and circulating it to relevant parties for more feedback and only when there is a consensus of sorts should it be tabled in Parliament.
Muhyiddin and his friends in Cabinet cannot claim to be blind-sided by the furore this amendment has caused.
Upko leader and former Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Bernard Dompok said that he voiced his objections early on the Bill and was surprised that it had made it to Parliament.
Muhyiddin denied that the government was going back on its word by allowing the minor based on the consent of just one parent. This assurance was offered in 2009 by the then de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz in the wake of a controversy of body snatching case and the conversion of children by a father who embraced Islam..
The DPM said that the amendment had to be done in line with a recent court case.
Puzzling reasoning when you consider the fact that Parliament is the highest decision-making body in the land. Not the courts.
Despite any court decision, Parliament  can choose to make law based on public or national interest. That is a parliamentary democracy.
Hurrying through ill-advised legislation is bad but taking cover behind a court decision for ill-advised legislation is shocking.

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