PETALING JAYA: The son of a Hindu man buried in a Muslim cemetery by the Negeri Sembilan religious department said the unhappy family will try to retrieve the body for re-burial in a Hindu cemetery, according to a report in China Press.
The report said Mahat Sulaiman, 76, who was a baba nyonya descendant, died at 2.31am on Sept 9 at Tuanku Ja’afar Hospital in Seremban.
His eldest son, Roseli Mahat, 44, told the newspaper the hospital staff had contacted the religious department because the dead man’s name contained the word “bin” and they wanted confirmation by the National Registration Department (NRD) before releasing the body.
Roseli said he informed the religious department that his late father was a Hindu but was told to wait till the following Monday to deal with the matter since the death occurred on a Saturday.
However, his younger brother who stayed back at the hospital told him that a group of people believed to be from the religious department and accompanied by police officers took away the body at 10am last Saturday.
When Roseli arrived at the hospital, he was told his father’s body had already been buried at the Sikamat Muslim cemetery in Seremban.
At a news conference yesterday at the service centre of Nilai assemblyman J Arul Kumar, Roseli said the death certificate and burial permit issued by NRD on Sept 9 left blank the space for religion and race in the forms.
He said that two days later, NRD stamped the words “Maklumat tidak diperolehi” (information unavailable) on Mahat’s death certificate and “Cina” (Chinese) in the space reserved for religion and race.
‘Bin’ not necessarily means person is Muslim
Roseli said all the identification documents of his family members were destroyed in a fire 35 years ago.
Before the fire, the names of his family members did not carry the word “bin” but NRD included it in the replacement documents for all the family members on the ground that their names contained Muslim identifying features.
“At that time, my father told NRD that we were baba nyonya descendants, not Muslims. NRD officials explained to him that names carrying the ‘bin’ did not necessarily mean the persons were Muslim.
“So my father did not pursue the matter but we never expected our religion would become an issue today.”
Roseli also said his family did not use any Chinese names although his grandfather, who came from China, was buried in the Batu Berendam Chinese cemetery in Melaka.
“My father had always lived as a Hindu and never followed Islamic teachings or observed Islamic practices.
“Our family members eat pork and my father conducted my wedding according to Hindu customs.”
Muddle in the birth certificates
Roseli said there was much confusion in the birth certificates of some family members.
His birth certificate showed him as an Indian but his father Mahat’s race was written as Malay in his certificate while the religion space for both was stamped “Maklumat tidak diperolehi”.
China Press published an image of the birth certificate of his younger sister, who was named Sharifah binti Mahat, with “Cina” for race and “Buddha” for religion stamped on it, while her father’s race and religion were given as “Cina” and “Buddha”.
However, in the birth certificate of Roseli’s daughter named Ng Mei Ling, NRD put her race down as Indian, while Roseli’s race and religion were given as “Cina” and “Maklumat tidak diperolehi”.