Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bar Council: Speed up marriage act amendments

Bar Council: Speed up marriage act amendments

KUALA LUMPUR: The amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 must be sped up to resolve conflicts and clarify procedures on conversion.

Bar council chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said it was necessary to push for the amendments to resolve conflicts in civil marriages where conversion took place.

"I attended a close-door discussion, chaired by the Attorney-General, on the amendments to the Act about a year ago but have not heard or attended meetings since then," she told reporters on Monday after attending the Bar Council's seminar on Sedition Laws -- Impact on Freedom of Speech in Contemporary Society.

Various non-governmental organisations had called for an amendment to the Act, including requiring those who converted to Islam to abide by civil law in terms of maintenance, custody and matrimonial property.

Gerakan acting president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon has urged the joint committee of civil and Syariah lawyers to meet soon to resolve religious conversion issues in a marriage between a Muslim and a non-Muslim, custody and burial rights.

The committee was formed to find solutions following controversial problems involving Muslim converts after death and the breakdown of marriages.

At Monday's seminar, Ambiga said it was the responsibility of all, including lawyers and the media, to speak up against oppressive laws to ensure "that lawmakers are aware that we are not happy with the law."

Malaysians in general, she said, were maturing and did not react violently based on everything they read although "arrests under the Internal Security Act and the constant threat of the Sedition Act was something of concern."

"I have faith in the Malaysian public's ability to process information. But we need to ask ourselves if we are ready to discuss matters rationally without the constant threat of sedition," she added.

Meanwhile, lawyer Dipendra Harshad Raj said the government must be prepared to accept criticisms and not use the Sedition Act to suppress freedom.

Forum panelist and Malaysia Today online editor Raja Petra said no government that curtailed the freedom of expression should be tolerated and one must speak up and fight to reform oppressive laws.

"The freedom of speech is a basic principle in Islam. Any Muslim who supports the Sedition Act is not a Muslim. We need to speak up to bring changes. If we don't how is the government going to listen," he said.

Raja Petra said the protest on Saturday did not represent the views of all Muslims.


seals: this will change when the government changes...

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