SHAH ALAM: The remains of a Hindu man that were forcibly taken away and buried in a Muslim cemetery in Negeri Sembilan last month have yet to be relocated to a Hindu burial ground as desired by his family.
His eldest son, Roseli Mahat, said he had appointed a lawyer to take legal action following the state Islamic Affairs Department’s (Jains) failure to take corrective measures after burying the body there.
“His body has still not been moved to the Hindu burial site. I went myself to the department’s office and the national registration department (NRD) in Seremban to get some update, but nothing has been done yet.
“Because of that I have decided to take the matter to court. Let the court decide whether my father was a Muslim or not, and whether his body should be buried in a Muslim or Hindu cemetery,” he told FMT.
Mahat Sulaiman, 76, who was of Baba-Nyonya lineage in Melaka, passed away at the Hospital Tuanku Ja’afar in Seremban at 2.31am on Sept 9.
Roseli was informed by hospital authorities that because Mahat had a “bin” in the middle of his name, they had to notify the religious department and await confirmation of his status from the NRD.
He contacted Jains to inform it of his father’s Hindu faith but was told to wait until Sept 11, which was a Monday.
However, he soon learnt from his brother that a group of officers, believed to be from the department, had come to the hospital together with the police and forcibly taken away the body.
The remains were already buried at the Muslim cemetery in Sikamat, Seremban, by the time he arrived at the hospital, he said.
Roseli said he was disappointed over this, adding that he believed his father’s soul was not at peace.
“A person should be allowed to be put to rest based on the faith that he professed,” he said.
“I need to take action now so that what happened to my father does not happen to me, as I too have a name that sounds Muslim. I want to be buried in a Hindu cemetery.”
He added that he had never seen Mahat performing Muslim rites in his entire life.
“I know my father very well. He had never stepped foot in a surau or mosque. We observed every Hindu festival,” he said.
He said the section on Mahat’s religion and race on the burial permit from the authorities had been left blank.
Two days later, the death certificate issued by the NRD carried the notation “information unavailable” under religion and “Chinese” under race.
He said Jains did not show him any evidence that his father had converted to Islam.
Roseli said his grandfather was a migrant from China to Melaka, and his father had interacted with the Chitty, a Peranakan Indian community in town, when growing up.
He said he had previously faced problems with his birth certificate because although it identified him as Indian, his father was identified as Malay and their religion was noted as “information unavailable”.
However, the birth certificate of Roseli’s sister Sharifah Mahat specifies her race as Chinese and religion as Buddhist, with Mahat’s race and religion listed the same as hers.
The NRD had also listed Roseli’s daughter, Ng Mei Ling, as Indian in her birth certificate while stating Roseli, the father, as “Chinese. The section for religion carries the words “information unavailable”.