PETALING JAYA: A rights group has questioned the motive of the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) in seeking to make the Bahasa Malaysia (BM) version the authoritative text of the Federal Constitution.
The Global Human Rights Federation (GHRF) expressed concern over the Bahasa Malaysia version of Article 12(4) of the constitution, which deals with the conversion of children, and states that only the consent of either the mother, father or guardian is required to convert minors.
The English version of the text states that the consent of “the parent or guardian” is needed. In 2018, the Federal Court held that the word “parent” meant both the father and mother.
GHRF president S Shashi Kumar said Attorney-General Idrus Harun should correct the misinterpretation in the Bahasa Malaysia text before proposing that the government make it the authoritative version.
Shashi said this was to ensure that the rights of non-Muslims were not undermined, as many had lost their children through unilateral conversion.
He cited the cases involving M Indira Gandhi and Loh Siew Hong, whose former husbands had converted their children to Islam without their knowledge or approval.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) said relying on the Bahasa Malaysia text would have an effect on the Federal Court ruling on unilateral conversion.
It said the English version must remain the authoritative text since it was the original constitution that was penned.
“A translation of the Federal Constitution can be made but the original text must remain the authoritative text. This is because if the translation is defective, it can be corrected by reference to the original text,” it said.
Yesterday, Idrus said the AGC planned to suggest that Putrajaya make the Bahasa Malaysia version of the constitution the authoritative text.
However, he said, this was subject to the approval of the King.