06 July 2013

Don’t turn Parliament into a joke

The government should consult MPs from both sides of the political divide before proposing to table bills only to withdraw it later amidst much criticisms and being left red-faced.

The Parliament is the highest decision-making body in Malaysia and would not have been subjected to such humiliation if the government had followed proper procedures.

The much-criticised Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Amendment Bill 2013, which had been tabled for its first reading in Parliament, was withdrawn yesterday.

Malaysiakini reported that Penang Gerakan legal and human rights state bureau chief Baljit Singh expressed support for DAP national chairperson Karpal Singh's view.

Karpal had said in the interest of humanity, such an amendment should secure the support of all MPs on either side of the divide.

Karpal had echoed Baljit's view that the vote should be taken according to "conscience" as both sides of the political divide should remove their whips and allow their MPs to vote according to their conscience.

"Input from all parties is necessary as this issue will affect all levels of society and different communities," Baljit said.

"It is time to put aside our differences and come together to resolve such crises so that in future, all bills will be discussed and all parties consulted before it is tabled in Parliament."

"To table a proposed law first and then argue over it, is like putting a cart before the horse."

The withdrawal of the controversial unilateral conversion bill is insufficient as the root point of contention has yet to be resolved, Baljit added.

Baljit said the problem would probably resurface if it was not snuffed out completely. He said rounds of consultation with all quarters was necessary in order to put the matter to rest once and for all.

"All the relevant stakeholders from both sides of the political divide must come together, discuss the bill and amend the Federal Constitution to ensure that no child can ever be converted without the consent of both parents."

Yesterday, deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the cabinet had agreed to withdraw the much-criticised bill, which had been tabled for its first reading in Parliament.

The contentious part of the bill includes the unilateral permission of only one parent alone to convert a minor.

It has come under fire from various quarters, including those from the BN, including Baljit and Kedah Gerakan Youth chief Tan Keng Liang, who planned to challenge the government in court if the law was passed.

The amendment refers to Section 107(b) of the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories), which allows one parent to convert an underaged child to Islam. - July 6, 2013.


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