Abide by court’s decision, allow children to be with mum, says Suhakam

PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has welcomed the High Court’s decision in allowing the habeas corpus application by a mother who has been separated from her three children since 2019.

Its commissioner for child affairs (CC) Prof Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal said the court had further ordered that the three children who are now under the care of the Social Welfare Department be released to the sole custody, care, and control of the mother.

“The CC wishes to highlight that the separation of a child from his or her parents violates Article 9

of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and this right must be respected and taken into consideration in the assessment of the child’s best interests,” said Suhakam in a statement on Monday (Feb 21)

Earlier, it was alleged that the children were unilaterally converted to Islam by the Perlis religious authorities, at the request of their father in July 2020, and that the mother was unaware of the conversion as she was recovering in a domestic abuse shelter.

The mother was unable to gain control of her children although the court in December 2019 and March 2021, had given the mother full custody.

In relation to the unilateral conversion, Suhakam reiterates the Federal Court’s decision in the case of Indira Gandhi in 2018 that as far as children are concerned, conversion to another religion must be done with consent of both parents as provided by Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution.

“The word ‘parent’ in Article 12(4) of the constitution has been interpreted to include ‘both parents’ and the Guardianship of Infants Act 1961 by virtue of Section 5 recognises that both parents have equal rights in respect of the child,” she said.

“Section 5(2) of Act 351 further provides that ‘the mother of an infant shall have the like powers of applying to the court in respect of any matter affecting the infant as are possessed by the father,” she added.

“So, the consent of both parents is necessary in determining the religion of the child,” added Noor Aziah.

It must be emphasised that unilateral conversion contravenes Article 12(4) of the constitution, said Suhakam.

“The children have been denied the right to live with their mother for the past three years and therefore, the CC appeals to all parties concerned to abide by the court’s decision and allow the children to be reunited with their mother,” added Suhakam.