Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) is disappointed with the decision made by the Court of Appeal in Indira Gandhi’s case on 31 December 2015.
The issue of unilateral conversion and the circumstances surrounding such cases is often difficult to address and even more so difficult to remedy.
Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provides that everyone has the right to an effective remedy by a competent national tribunal.
In cases of unilateral conversion, the Court of Appeal of Malaysia effectively divested themselves of such competency leaving non-Muslims without a competent and suitable court to hear the matter. This clearly violates the fundamental rights held by Indira Gandhi.
Further, as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the government of Malaysia and all public institutions in the country are duty bound to implement and enforce the principles enshrined in the UNCRC. Any decisions by the court should reflect the principles of the UNCRC and place the best interests of the child as the top priority in the decision-making process.
On this note, the decision to permit the unilateral conversion of minors without any challenge by the Court of Appeal can be seen as a failure of the court in upholding the principles of the UNCRC. Not only does the failure violate children’s rights enshrined in the UNCRC, it also condemns the parent and the children to further emotional turmoil and darkens the future of the children involved with each passing day.
As the future of Malaysia relies on the healthy development of children and young persons in the country, it is of utmost importance for all government agencies and Malaysians to take appropriate steps to ensure that children and young persons are given an ideal environment to learn and grow. Such a failure to safeguard the best interests of the child must not be allowed to continue and must be dealt with by all relevant institutions and agencies immediately.
In the event of an appeal to the Federal Court, Suaram calls upon the court to implement and uphold the principles enshrined in the UNCRC and Child Act 2001 and ensure that the interests of Indira Gandhi’s children are protected. Failure to do so would undoubtedly put Malaysia in clear violation of its obligations under the UNCRC and further tarnish Malaysia’s reputation in the world.
Sevan Doraisamy is executive director of Suaram.