by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary- General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Wednesday, May 8, 1991:
DAP calls on the Prime Minister to end the frequent ‘disputes over corpses’ which can only undermine national unity and destroy the family unit as the most important basis of Malaysian society.
The dispute over the corpse of RTM producer, Lee Siew Kee, between his family and the Federal Territory Religious Department entered the seventh day today.
The Lee Siew Kee ‘corpse dispute’ has again highlighted the great injustice suffered by the surviving family members in these type of cases, and the time has come to put an end to such injustices as well as such frequent ‘dispute over corpses’ which do so much damage to national unity as well as destroy the family unit as the most important basis of Malaysian society.
In the case of Lee Siew Kee, the Federal Territory Religious Department has not been able to produce satisfactory evidence that Lee Siew Kee had been converted to Islam 17 years ago in 1974, especially as Lee Siew Kee’s identity card and all identification papers until his death on 2nd May had never been changed to conform to conversion to Islam.
It is important that everyone should realise very clearly that no one is being anti- Islam or trying to create racial problems when calling for the end of such ‘corpse disputes’ between the families of the decreased and the Religious Department.
Firstly, every non- Muslim has the basic human and constitutional right to embrace Islam, and nobody is objecting to such conversion. I am prepared to defend the right of a non- Muslim to be converted to Islam any time. However, the wife and children of such a person has also rights which cannot be destroyed by such a mere act of conversion.
Great pain and sufferings are always caused to families of such converts at the final rites for funeral and burial preparations when Religious Department officials pounce on them to take away the corpse, telling them for the first time that the deceased had been converted to Islam one decade or more ago.
The families are also told, as in the case of the family of Lee Siew Kee, that the wife and children have all lost their property rights because of the conversion.
If the ‘corpse disputes’ continue to multiply, then non- Muslims will have a very wrong perception about Islam, and this will greatly under inter- religious understanding as well as national unity.
I believe that with goodwill, justice, decency, compassion and belief in a caring society, it is possible to end completely the frequent ‘corpse disputes’ which can do no honour to Malaysian society.