Unilateral conversion bill: What’s the constitutional issue, asks Zaid
In a blog post today, he gave the example of Barisan Nasional (BN) ministers whom he said put up a “nauseating political show” in Parliament yesterday when they explained why a clause that prohibits the unilateral conversion of children could not be included in a new bill being tabled.
“They said it was a matter of the constitution, but it’s not. It’s a matter of a ridiculous decision by the Federal Court 10 years ago.
“These BN ministers have never raised the constitutionality issue since then. They have tried to introduce this bill in the Dewan many times, but they have always buckled under pressure from the Talibans and withdrawn it at the last minute,” he said.
The DAP member pointed out that if the new law was passed in Parliament, it would override any decision the Federal Court had previously made in the matter.
“Until the new law banning unilateral conversion is decided at the highest level, it stays valid. So what’s the constitutional issue?”
Nazri Aziz, who once served as de facto law minister, said the constitution would have to be amended first, which required a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat.
He said failure to obtain a two-thirds majority would result in a vote of no confidence against the government.
However, Zaid disputed Nazri’s claim, saying: “It isn’t tantamount to a vote of no confidence, you just don’t get the two-thirds.”
In his blog post today, he also hit out at BN component parties MIC and MCA for not defending the clause in question, Clause 88.
“The law not permitting unilateral conversion is meant to recognise that each parent has equal say in the upbringing of their child. It also recognises the principle that, under the constitution, the government protects all religions.
“MCA and MIC cannot defend even these simple principles because they are preoccupied with staying in BN. They do everything possible to please Umno and PAS – paying homage to Umno supersedes everything.
“What kind of political struggle is that?”
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