KUALA LUMPUR – Putrajaya needs to amend the Federal Constitution to push for a ban on unilateral child conversion but would need a two-thirds majority vote in the Dewan Rakyat to do so, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today.
Speaking at a Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50) dialogue session with women here, Najib said his administration is bound by the Constitution despite calls for the ban, that was dropped from the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill passed recently.
“We need maturity to amend the Constitution and a two-thirds majority. I don’t have a two-thirds majority,” Najib said.
The chairman of the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional said Putrajaya’s failure to push for the amendment is not for a “lack of trying”.
The Federal Constitution states that a child can be converted with the consent of a “parent”, which is then mentioned as “father or mother” in the Bahasa Malaysia version.
However, the semantics of the constitution’s spirit has been subject to debate, with some arguing that the word parent refers to both parents and not just one.
The then Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong had on June 18, 2013 noted that the government-printed Federal Constitution’s Bahasa Malaysia version had always translated “parent” to the plural form of “ibu bapa” (father and mother), but had in the 2002 edition translated it to read “ibu atau bapa” (father or mother).
“If the women give us a two-thirds majority, we can [amend the constitution],” he said.
Najib was responding to a member of the audience who urged Putrajaya to re-introduce clause 88A that was part of the original amendment bill.
The clause was removed following months of pressure of Islamic groups, though Putrajaya claimed that the removal was due to past court rulings that ruled that the provision in the constitution means a single parent’s consent is enough to convert the religion of children.
– Malay Mail