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Amendments related to conversion delayed

KUALA LUMPUR, 30 June 2009: Amendments to three laws concerning matters of religious conversion will not be tabled in the current Parliamentary sitting, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said today.

“I was confident in April (that they would be tabled), but I have been proven wrong,” the de facto law minister told a press conference in Parliament today.

“We may discuss the bills in December. But I cannot say this with certainty,” he added.

Nazri was commenting on the Rulers’ Council‘s decision not to give their consent to the amendments. The Rulers, guardians of Islam in their respective states, yesterday said that the amendments pertaining to matters of religion and conversion had to be referred to state religious authorities.

This meant that the changes to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act, Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act and Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act will not be tabled before the current Parliamentary sitting ends on 2 July.

According to Nazri, the amendments have been stalled because the cabinet formulated them as a package. This means that even though the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act does not concern Islam specifically, its amendments cannot be tabled without the Rulers’ blessing.

“Disappointed? Yes, I am,” Nazri said, answering questions by reporters as to how he felt about the delay.

Nazri failed to reveal the Rulers’ Council’s specific reservations.

“They had their queries. We answered their queries,” Nazri said, noting that the amendments were formulated after consultation with all stakeholders.

“The Attorney General (Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail) engaged with all the non-governmental organisations, the muftis, and representatives from all religions,” Nazri said. “We have done our homework.”

“But if they (the Rulers’ Council) want time, we will give them time,” Nazri said.

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