Unilateral conversions issue: Najib pledges to amend Federal Constitution

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak has pledged to amend the Federal Constitution with regards to unilateral conversions, should Barisan Nasional (BN) regain its two-thirds majority in the 14th General Election.

Stating that he is against forced conversion, Najib said a two-thirds majority is required by the BN coalition to amend Article 12 of the Constitution on the issue involving children's religion.

"I do not support forced conversions as Islam does not approve of it. However, the government had to withdraw Clause 88A of the Bill (The Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2017 ) because Article 12 could be challenged in court.

"Give us a strong government that will be fair to all Malaysians. We will amend the Constitution," he said during his speech at the MIC's 71st General Assembly at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC), today.

Najib also called on the MIC to produce worthy, credible and winnable candidates to be fielded for the upcoming general election.

Praising the Barisan Nasional component party for completing its reforms and being in a better position of strength than previously, Najib said candidates must be able to appeal to all other races as well in order to earn their candidacy.

"The reality is that there are no seats in the country where the Indian community represents the majority despite making up 7% of the total population.

"So for example, the Teluk Kemang seat in Negri Sembilan has an army camp.

"Therefore the candidate has to be appealing to the servicemen there in order to win," he said adding that if the MIC wants to win, the party would also have to depend on other races and cannot just rely on the support of party members.

Thanking MIC president Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam for the sympathy extended to the victims of the arson attack that killed 21 students and two teachers at a tahfiz school in Jalan Datuk Keramat last week, Najib said this instance was a good example that the party cares for other communities and called on party members to show this gesture at all levels.

Earlier, Dr Subramaniam called on Najib to consider the issue involving unilateral conversions as it remains a major issue among the Indian community.

"When the Government tabled the amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 2017, we made some progress in the area of marriages.

"The problem of unilateral conversion of children has yet to be resolved. As such the MIC is committed to finding a solution to the problem which we have repeatedly raised in all forums.

"We request political support and a political decision to consider the previous Cabinet decision in 2009, where it was decided that a child will remain in the religion of birth until the age of 18," he said in his opening speech.

The 2009 Cabinet decision states that the religion of a child will remain as it was at the time of birth until age 18.

However, despite passing the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2017 at the Dewan Rakyat last month, Clause 88A of the Bill, which states that the religion of the child "shall remain as the religion of the parties to the marriage prior to the conversion", was dropped.

It was later reported that Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said the clause was removed from the Bill so it would be in line with the Federal Constitution and the verdicts of the Federal Court and Court of Appeal.