COMMENTARY BY THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
15 June 2014
In the past week or so, Malaysians were reminded once again that the country is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy. That the Federal constitution is supreme.
So why are elected governments appear to fear appointed religious officials who are now thumbing their noses at the government, the country’s top lawyer and the supreme law?
Why aren’t they standing up to these religious authorities and put them in their place? The government of the day, be it in Putrajaya or any of the state capital, was voted by all Malaysians and not just one particular group.
The government represents all, not just one particular group. So do the police and all branches of the government. Instead they now appear to just consider the views of religious authorities rather than following the law of the land.
Two particular episodes come to mind that show the government’s fear of some religious authorities.
One, Putrajaya has stepped into the touchy issue of child custody battles, saying that parents involved in such interfaith disputes should wait for a Federal Court ruling on their quarrel instead of asking the police to enforce court rulings.
Lawyers are in agreement that marriages contracted under civil law should be resolved by civil law should there be any dispute, notwithstanding that one spouse has converted to Islam.
But Putrajaya and the police appear to drop the ball on this, with ridiculous ideas of waiting for the case to take its time to the Federal Court or putting children of such custody battles in state childcare centres until the issue reaches a final settlement.
How long will that take? Which parent will have a say in their children’s welfare? All because the government does not want to confront religious authorities?
The second episode deals with Selangor where Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim’s government is facing a recalcitrant religious council that refuses to follow legal advice and hand back Malay and Iban-language Bibles to The Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM).
Instead of directing the council to follow the law, Khalid wants to seek consensus on the matter. So what happens to the law? Is it just window-dressing for the world to know that Malaysia has some laws?
How is it that the will of the people is now subverted by a group of appointed officials who do not appear to answer to anyone except themselves?
Again, the state government here does not want to confront the religious officials and stick to the law.
These two governments can preach all they want about a belief in democracy and that it is the people’s will but they wilt in the face of religious authorities. If this is the case, why bother with elections and the pretence of a government?
It is a sad day indeed for Malaysia that after 51 years as a nation of 13 states, the elected government at the central and state level is running scared of some religious officials who want to impose their blinkered and narrow views. – June 15, 2014.