Wednesday, December 2, 2009

'Welfare home conversion': Lawyer wants proof - Malaysiakini

The lawyer of S Banggarma, who is caught in a conversion crisis, has sent a legal letter to the Welfare Department demanding that it furnish proof to substantiate its claim that the housewife was converted on Nov 30, 1983 in Rompin, Pahang.

NONEIn the letter dated Nov 25, counsel Gooi Hsiao Leung urged department director-general Meme Zainal Rashid to submit to his client the alleged letter of consent given by Banggarma's parents for the alleged conversion when she was a year old.

He also demanded that his client be furnished with the court order obtained under the 1947 Juveline Courts Act to place Banggarma in Rumah Kanak Kanak Taman Bakti in Kepala Batas.

"We have also demanded all other relevant documents to substantiate the director-general's claim that Banggarma was converted by her parents, and not by the welfare home," he told Malaysiakini today.

Banggarma has claimed that she was converted unwittingly on Dec 28, 1989 by the Penang Welfare Department when she was seven and living in the welfare home.

The mother of two, whose Muslim name is Siti Hasnah Vangarama Abdullah, refuted Meme's claim that she was converted in 1983 by her natural Hindu parents, plantation worker B Subramaniam and Latchumy Ramadu.

DG's claim contains discrepancies

Meanwhile, Gooi said Meme's claim had discrepancies and contradicted the contents of the conversion certificate issued to Banggarma.

He is now preparing to file the case at the Malaysian civil courts seeking a judgment to nullify Banggarma's conversion as illegal.

He said under Article 12.4 of the Federal Constitution, a minor could only be converted to another religion with consent of the person's parents or guardian.

"This is a civil court case because it involved unconstitutional and unlawful conversion of a minor.

"This is not the case of a voluntary Muslim convert seeking to renounce Islam," he added when asked if he had to seek justice at the Syariah Court instead.

NONEGooi, who is also PKR Kedah Youth deputy chief, said he has also penned a letter to the welfare home seeking a meeting to discuss and explore an amicable solution to the controversy.

However, he said the welfare home had been tightlipped over the issue.

"An officer from the home told me that the case was being handled by the KL welfare office."

Gooi said he hoped the Welfare Department would save everybody's time, money and energy by observing the constitutional law and allow his client to be a Hindu rightfully and legally.

"Otherwise we will have no choice but to challenge the conversion in court," he said.