Welfare Department director-general Meme Zainal Rashid should furnish evidence to substantiate her claim that S Banggarma was converted on Nov 30, 1983 in Rompin, Pahang.
Demanding this at a media briefing today, Banggarma's lawyer Gooi Hsiao Leung pointed out that the conversion certificate dates the conversion at Dec 28, 1989.
“The Welfare Department now claims that she was converted by her Hindu parents when she was a year old. There cannot be two conversions into Islam for the same person,” he said.
Gooi chided Penang Islamic Affairs Council (MAINPP) president Shabudin Yahaya for saying that Banggarma, 27, is a Muslim and that her marriage to a Hindu is a legal issue.
He said the Welfare Department and Islamic authorities have failed to address the key question on the conversion of a minor by the administrators of the welfare home.
Section 80 of the Penang Administration of Islamic Affairs Enactment 1993 stipulates that anyone below the age of 18 shall not be converted to Islam without the consent of his or her parents.
Banggarma's conversion, Gooi said, was illegal from the start.
“By converting her at (the age of seven), the Islamic authorities infringed their own law.”
Gooi hoped that MAINPP will assist Banggarma by expunging records of her conversion, so that the issue can be resolved amicably.
Banggarma, who was present, told reporters that her father had never mentioned anything about the 1983 conversion.
“My father is a practising Hindu like me,” she said, showing a photo of her father with vibuthi (sacred ash) on his forehead.
He had enrolled her and three siblings - two elder brothers and a younger sister - at the home, after its welfare officers convinced him to do so, she said.
“He was shocked to hear that my siblings and I were converted to Islam in the welfare home,” Banggarma said, alleging that the four were then separated and have not met since.
'Welfare Department lied'
Meme had told Malaysiakini yesterday that Banggarma, whose Muslim name is Siti Hasnah Vangarama Abdullah, was placed into the welfare home in Kepala Batas in March 1990 following a order under the Juvenile Courts Act of 1947, for her own protection.
Meme claimed Banggarma was found wandering aimlessly in Sungai Petani, Kedah.
Questioning this, Banggarma pointed to the conversion certificate which shows that she was converted in 1989.
“It's a lie. The department is trying to cover this up,” said the mother of two.
Due to her Muslim name in her identity card, she has not been able to register her marriage to S Sockalingam. It had been conducted according to Hindu rites.
She has also been unable to register her husband as the father of the children in their birth certificates.
Her birth certificate shows that she was born on Aug 13, 1982 in Keratong, Pahang to plantation worker B Subramaniam and Latchumy Ramadu, both Hindus.
Describing herself as a staunch Hindu, Banggarma said she would fight till the end to restore her rightful identity.
“I was born as a Hindu, I live as a Hindu, I will die as a Hindu,” she said.