DAP: Did BN parties agree to defer marriage, divorce bill?

kulasegaranPETALING JAYA: DAP’s Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran wants to know if there was a Barisan Nasional (BN) consensus to defer amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.

In a statement today, he expressed disappointment in the decision to defer debate on the bill, adding that the amendments might not even be tabled at the next Parliament sitting.

“When the BN supreme council recently decided against the government taking over Hadi Awang’s private member’s bill to amend Act 355, BN component parties hailed the coalition’s consensus principle.

“So the question is – was there a BN consensus to defer amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976?”

Kulasegaran was referring to PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s motion to table a bill to enhance the powers of the shariah courts, which was presented at the Dewan Rakyat on Thursday.

On March 29, Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is also BN chairman, surprised many when he announced that the government would not adopt Hadi’s bill, following strong objections from BN coalition partners.

The decision came two weeks after Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was reported as saying that BN itself would table a bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355), even if it risked losing some “friends”.

The “friends” whom Zahid referred to were believed to be BN’s other component parties – MIC, MCA and Gerakan – who had objected to the proposed amendments.

Today, Kulasegaran said it was “sad, unfair and irresponsible” that the marriage and divorce bill, which was tabled last November and had been listed in the order paper for a second reading at the now concluded Dewan Rakyat sitting, had been deferred.

“The BN government has failed M Indira Gandhi and others who have suffered so much trauma and injustice for so long. How could it now defer the amendments?”

Indira’s ex-husband had converted their three children to Islam without her knowledge eight years ago.

Her eldest daughter, Tevi Darsiny, is now an adult at 20 while her brother, Karan Dinish, turns 19 in October. They are old enough to decide on their own faiths.

However, the location of her youngest child, nine-year-old Prasana Diksa, remains unknown.

Kulasegaran said if it took seven years for the government to come up with the necessary amendments after the 2009 cabinet decision to ban unilateral conversion of minors, who knew how long it would take for the bill to be re-tabled.