Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Threat to Federal Constitutions

At about 10.30pm last night, my lawyer friend called up to say 'hi'. I was delighted to receive his call. I thought he is announcing his 'big' day at last - getting hitched! But that was not to be, he shared with me his concern over the R. Subshini's case at the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal, through a majority decision, had refused to hear Subshini’s application to stop her husband's application to the Syariah Court to dissolve the marriage and seek custody of their second son.

A number of Muslim observers opined that the decision was correct because it contravened the Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution, which was introduced in 1988. The article stated that all matters relating to Islam shall be in the jurisdiction of the syariah courts. The legal language is ambiguous.

My friend told me that the implication of the case is serious. It is taking us down the road of theocratic rule. In this case, the civil judges have openly conceded the supremacy of the civil courts to the syariah courts. The two judges in the Subshini's case are Malay-Muslim and it not sure if their judgement is based on the proper interpretation of Article 121(1A) or guided by their religious sentiment.

It is clear that this case and the previous ones have created a legal lacuna for non-Muslim in the country when the other party involves a Muslim.

The only recourse is through legislative amendment. Then again, we need to understand and feel the mood of the present administration. Is the administration supportive of multiculturalism or Islamic values?

I am sure many of us already know the answer.

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