By Annabelle Lee, Lee Way Loon, Lu Wei Hoong, Ramieza Wahid, Yasmin Ramlan and Zikri Kamarulzaman.
Talk is rife of a political storm brewing in Selangor over the proposed amendment to a state enactment, which would pave the way for unilateral conversion of minors.
The amendment hit a brick wall when Selangor speaker Ng Suee Lim cut short the state legislative assembly sitting just after two days on July 31.
The sitting was scheduled to run from July 29 to Aug 9.
Sources told Malaysiakini that Ng, who is a four-term DAP assemblyperson, declined to sign a document which would prioritise state government bills, therefore halting plans to table the amendment.
At present, the enactment reads that those below 18 must obtain the consent of his or her “mother and father” before embracing Islam. The amendment seeks to change this to “mother or father.”
The Bahasa Malaysia version of the Federal Constitution also refers to “mother or father” with regard to consent for conversion but the apex court last year made a landmark ruling in the M Indira Gandhi case that the constitution should not be interpreted literally and the consent of both parents are needed for the conversion of minors.
After Ng ended the sitting, Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari purportedly met with PKR’s Muslim assemblypersons and one Bersatu assemblyperson on Aug 1 to discuss the matter.
Sources told Malaysiakini that among the issues discussed was the possibility of replacing the speaker.
However, PKR assemblypersons Juwairiya Zulkifli (Bukit Melawati) and Azmizam Zaman Huri (Port Klang) denied this.
Juwariya claimed it was a briefing by Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin on a new policy for selected areas in the state whereas Azmizam dismissed claims of wanting the speaker removed as propaganda.
Reps opposed to amendment, urges MB to explain to sultan
On July 26, three days before the state assembly sitting commenced, the menteri besar held a pre-council meeting with all Pakatan Harapan assemblypersons comprising PKR (21), DAP (16) and Amanah (8).
Meanwhile, Bersatu has five state assembly seats, Umno (5) and PAS (1).
A PKR assemblyperson, who attended, told Malaysiakini that Amirudin revealed the proposed amendment but the majority of those present objected.
He claimed that since the amendment was not agreed to during the state exco meeting, the menteri besar sought the support of assemblypersons instead.
“But almost everyone (assemblypersons) opposed it. Both PKR and Amanah were also divided.
“The concern is that if the amendment is tabled, it will backfire on the state government. So we asked the menteri besar to seek an audience with the sultan to explain the matter to the ruler.
“The menteri besar told us that the matter was requested by the Selangor Islamic Council (Mais) and received the blessings of the palace.
“The menteri besar expressed reluctance to raise the matter with the sultan. Amirudin said it has been decided. He also said ‘we need this for Malay votes’ but some of us told him it will be at the expense of non-Muslim votes,” he claimed.
However, the assemblyperson, who requested not to be named, did not wish to comment if the speaker’s decision to end the sitting was related to this amendment.
With Selangor ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah also agreeing to the amendment, this means that Ng’s move had placed the menteri besar in a difficult position.
Ng: State assembly sittings were cut short in the past as well
When contacted, Ng declined to comment on these claims.
“This sitting was cut short because the assemblypersons were not actively participating in the debates. So after we finished the agendas, I adjourned the sitting according to the Standing Orders.
“This is normal. There were also two-day sittings in the past. For example, in 2016 and 2017, under speaker Hannah Yeoh,” he told Malaysiakini.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, two Amanah assemblypersons told Malaysiakini that they have not heard of any attempt to remove the speaker.
As for the proposed amendment, both of them had reservations about the matter, with one stating it could lead to another M Indira Gandhi-like scenario.
“We have to look at it in the context of federal law. But we also must remember that powers related to Islam in the state lie with his Highness (Sultan Sharafuddin),” said one assemblyperson.
The other pointed out that whenever there are divorce cases related to conversion, it leads to a crisis which tarnishes Islam’s image.
“We should not look at this issue from a micro perspective, we must have a macro approach using ‘ilmu maqasid syariah‘ (the five higher purposes of syariah),” he said.
Plot to remove MB?
Meanwhile, speculation is also rife about an alleged plot to remove Amirudin, who is an ally of PKR deputy president Azmin Ali, as menteri besar.
According to sources, this was related to his remarks in the wake of a sex video implicating Azmin.
The two Amanah assemblypersons claimed to have heard about such a plot but told Malaysiakini that nobody has approached them to court their support either for or against the menteri besar.
However, the PKR assemblyperson claimed to be in the dark.
“I was informed by Anwar’s inner circle that Amirudin texted Anwar and apologised for his remarks. Anwar asked him to make an open apology but Amirudin has yet to do so,” he said.
On the other hand, Juwairiya said there is a perception that the daggers are out for the menteri besar “but we don’t know who mooted this.”
Malaysiakini has contacted the menteri besar for comment on both the amendment as well as the alleged plot against him.
The portal has also contacted the Selangor palace for a response.