KUALA LUMPUR: The decision to defer amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 today brings added frustration to M Indira Gandhi, whose ex-husband converted their three children to Islam without her knowledge eight years ago.
The bill had been listed in the order paper for second reading at the Dewan Rakyat today. However, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi later said it would not be tabled at the current Parliament sitting.
According to a report in The Sun daily, Zahid said the bill must be studied in detail and feedback must be obtained from relevant quarters to prevent a conflict with Islamic fatwa and the Federal Constitution.
The bill was first tabled on Nov 21, 2016.
At a press conference at the Dewan Rakyat Media centre today, Indira said she was very disappointed by the delay.
“I am very sad and disappointed at what is happening. I have been waiting for eight years to get justice.
“I have come to Parliament so many times (and) they gave me an assurance it will be tabled.
“But now (again) my children’s faith is uncertain. When can i get justice?” she asked.
Indira’s former husband, K Pathmanathan, converted to Islam on March 11, 2009, taking the name of Muhammad Riduan Abdullah.
He left the house three weeks later with their youngest child. On April 2, 2009, he converted all three children to Islam without their knowledge and presence, and without Indira’s consent. He went to the Shariah Court several days later to obtain custody over them.
Indira’s eldest daughter, Tevi Darsiny, is now an adult at 20 while her brother, Karan Dinish, turns 19 in October. They are old enough to decide on their own faiths.
However, the location of nine-year-old Prasana Diksa remains unknown.
Speaking at the press conference, Indira said eight years was too long to settle the issue.
“I was hoping something good will happen. The assurance was given by the MPs. How many more years do I have to wait?”
Indira’s lawyer, M Kulasegaran, also questioned the delay, adding that Zahid had given his assurances two days ago that the Act would be tabled.
“I saw DPM in Parliament two days ago. He assured me (of) no hindrance and that no one can stop this bill.
“Unfortunately, they are many black hands around to stop this. What a shame to the institution.”
Kulasegaran, who was also present at the press conference, said they wanted answers.
“We want answers. I spoke to MIC president (Dr S Subramaniam) yesterday.
“He (Subramaniam) must go and see the PM so that the bill will see the light. I am not sure if he has spoken (to the prime minister),” he said.
Indira and Kulasegaran were there today with representatives of the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG).
One of JAG’s members, Sisters in Islam’s executive director Rozana Isa, said women’s rights had been pushed aside once again.
“Why does it have to take so long for women’s rights? Domestic violence bill has taken ten years. And now this. Look at her (Indira), she came from Ipoh. The kind of sacrifices she makes.
“Her life is already shattered. If we say we are Muslims but there is no justice, then we need to question what Islam we are following.”
Another JAG member, Meera Samather, asked the government to stop the “wayang kulit” or charade.
“You (the government) have taken us for us ride. So many are suffering. One day you assure us. (But now) we have to wait for another parliamentary session,” he said.