Gerakan Youth deputy chief Andy Yong has urged the government to make an amendment to the Federal Constitution to ensure that the judiciary will be obeyed in matters related to civil marriages.
While Yong applauded the recent decision to amend the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (LRA), he said that there should also be an amendment to Article 121(1) of the Federal Constitution.
He explained that before 1988, the courts derived their powers from Article 121 of the constitution but after the constitution was amended in 1988, they derived their powers from Parliament instead.
“In addition to the amendment of the LRA, I think it is also necessary to amend Article 121(1A) as one may still argue that the supreme law takes precedent over the LRA.
“Otherwise, it may lead to another controversial legal dispute after the proposed LRA amendment,” Yong (photo) said in a statement today.
The amendment to Article 121(1A) in 1988 also expanded the powers and jurisdiction of syariah courts beyond the limits permitted by the constitution, he said.
Since then, he said, the syariah courts can give orders against non-Muslims, such as to dissolve civil marriages registered under civil law when one spouse converts to Islam or when he or she converts infant children to Islam without the knowledge of the non-Muslim parent.
If the government were to amend that article again today, then it would reflect a true separation of powers, Yong said, with Parliament, the executive and the judiciary each having their distinct and largely exclusive domain.
“Parliament has a legally unchallengeable right to make whatever laws it thinks is right.
“The executive carries on with the administration of the country in accordance with the powers conferred on it by law.
“The courts, with a clear jurisdiction, can then interpret the laws and see that they are obeyed, such as only civil court can decide matters relating to civil marriages,” Yong added.