Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the DAP Malacca Ceramah to launch the nation-wide signature campaign for Constitutional amendment to entrench the parental right to determine the religion of children below 18 years, held at Pay Fong Chinese Secondary School on Monday, 2nd June 1986 at 9 pm
DAP launches nation-wide signature campaign for Constitutional amendment to Article 11 on Freedom of Religion to entrench the parental right to decide the religion of children below 18 years
Recently, more and more parents have found that they had effectively been deprived of the parental right, not only to decide the religion of their children below 18 years, even lost right to the custody and control of their children.
As a result, the very basis of society in Malaysia, the family unit, is being threatened, for such incidents have broken up families and homes, tearing up kinship ties between parents and their children.
In most of these cases, underaged girls are involved, although there had been instance concerning boys as well, as in Triang recently.
The most famous case is that of 16-year-old Ng Yee Kuan of Pasir Pas, Kelantan, who was forcibly separated from her family on the last day in school in November 1995, converted into Islam without parental knowledge or consent, and not allowed to return to her own home. The MCA in Kelantan was the first to be approached by her father, Ng Sin Man, for help and intervention, but the MCA leaders told Ng Sin Man that the MCA could not help him and advised him to accept the fact that he had lost a daughter. They told him that this was not the first case in Kelantan and everybody had to accept such occurrences.
To Ng Sin Man’s great credit, he refused to accept such gross injustice and sought out the DAP to champion his case, which is the basis human right of every parent to the custody, control and care of his children.
It was through the DAP’s intervention, which had included the filing of an habeas corpus application in the Kota Bahru High Court seeking the release of Ng Yee Kuan from illegal detention, that Ng Yee Kuan had been returned to her family.
Thanks to the Ng Yee Kuan case, and the spirit and courage of Ng Sin Man, Malaysians have generally become more aware of their basic human rights to the protection of the family unit integrity and parental right over control, custody and care of their children, including deciding their children’s religion.
However, it is a reflection of a unprecedented erosion of the basic human rights of Malaysians, in particular of the non-Malays, since the 1982 general elections, covering the whole spectrum of political, economic, educational, cultural and religious areas, that parents have been confronted with the loss of their basic parental rights!
In Trengganu, Kedah, Perak, Selangor, Pahang, Malacca, Johore, more and more cases have come to public knowledge about under-aged school-boys and schoolgirls being abducted from their homes, coerced into conversion into Islam, and forcibly separated from their families.
The Susie Teoh case in Trengganu, which was recently the subject of a Kota Bahru High Court decision, and the recent Tang Yu Fong case from Sitiawan, highlight the growing seriousness of this problem.
In the Susie Teoh case, the Kota Bahru High Court decided that parents have no right to decide the religion of their minor children below 18 years, and could not stop them, for instance, from being converted to Islam without parental knowledge or consent.
In actual fact, this decision would mean that a Muslim parent would not be able to prevent his children below 18 years from embracing another religion without his consent and knowledge, although the social and political pressures in Malaysia are such that this is unlikely to happen.
Although the Susie Teoh case is now being appealed to the Supreme Court, the growing incidence of cases like Ng Yee Kuan, Susie Teoh and Tang Yu Fong, has made it clear that the various challenges to parental rights to the custody, control and care of his children could only be put to rest by way of a clear-cut Constitutional amendment to entrench parental rights to decide the religion of their children and to inviolate right of family unit integrity.
This can be done by amending Article 11 of the Malaysian Constitution to spell out clearly the inviolate parental right to determine the religion of their children.
It is for this reason that the DAP is launching from Malacca tonight the nation-wide mass signature campaign to petition for the amendment to the Constitution to entrench the inviolate parental rights, to preserve family unit integrity, social harmony, inter-racial and inter-religious goodwill and understanding, and protect national unity.
There is no doubt that if irresponsible and extremist forces are allowed to operate unchecked to undermine parental rights and destroy family unit integrity, it will unleash destructive and divisive forces in our society which will further aggravate racial polarisation and make religious polarisation he most serious problem in Malaysia.
Parental rights and the family unit integrity must be the concern of every Malaysian, regardless of race, religion or party affiliation, for if the family unit is destroyed, every community is destroyed and the entire social fabric of our nation would disintegrate.
I call on all Malaysians, as individuals and organisations, to come forward to support this nation-wide mass signature campaign for Constitutional amendment to protect the basic parental rights and preserve integrity of the family unit, for this is no less than a campaign to preserve the social harmony and national unity in Malaysia.
Let this signature campaign be the most successful signature campaign, even more successful than the 250,000 mass signature campaign launched by the DAP in 1984 to save Bukit China from being demolished, and the graves dug out and thrown into sea, to give way to the Malacca Chief Minister’s plan to commercially develop Bukit China.
Let all political parties and political leaders declare their stand whether they support this national campaign for Constitutional amendment to Article 11 to spell out the inviolable rights of parents to the custody, control and care of their children and the integrity of the family unit.
Malaysia boasts itself as a democratic country. This is the time for the people to speak up, loud and clear, of their demand for the Constitutional amendment to protect parental rights and family integrity.
MCA and Gerakan Ministers should raise the Susie Teoh case in Cabinet
I am very disappointed that the MCA and Gerakan Ministers have refused so far to raise the Susie Teoh case in Cabinet.
They are only interested in trying to make electoral capital pretending to be concerned about the Susie Teoh case. This explained the unethical action of the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Tan Tiong Hong, in trying to harass the father of Susie Teoh, Teoh Eng Huat.
Datuk Dr. Tan should stop harassing Teoh Eng Huat, who had made it very clear in two separate press conferences in Kuala Lumpur and Penang that he wanted to exercise the right to choose his lawyers to represent him.
If Dr. Tan wants to help in this problem, he should use his influence, firstly, to get the police to locate the whereabouts of Susie Teoh. How could an adolescent disappear without trace in Malaysia, which boasts of law and order?
Secondly, Dr. Tan should get the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib, to intervene in the Susie Teoh case in the Supreme Court appeal on behalf of the Cabinet in the public interest.
Halsbury’ Laws of England (Fourth Edition) Vol.8, pp. 791, made it clear that “The Attorney-General has a right of intervention at the invitation or with the permission of the court in a private suit whenever it raises any question of public policy on which the executive may have a view which it may desire to bring to the notice of the court.”
It is for this reason that I suggest that the MCA and Gerakan Ministers should raise this matter in Cabinet, and get a Cabinet decision to instruct the Attorney-General to intervene in the Susie Teoh case at the Supreme Court appeal state.