The Federal Court today gave Muslim convert Muhammad Riduan Abdullah until tomorrow to show up in court for a case challenging the validity of his unilateral conversion of his three children to Islam.
Chief Judge of the High Court of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, who chaired the five-man panel today, adjourned the hearing and told Muhammad Riduan’s lawyer to get his client to come to court.
“You try, whatever it is, get instructions, can come or not. We will proceed tomorrow with or without him. We are giving him right to reply,” he said.
Today was scheduled to be the start of the Federal Court’s two-day hearing against Hindu mother M. Indira Gandhi’s final challenge against her Muslim convert ex-husband’s unilateral conversion of their three children to Islam.
Earlier, Indira’s lawyer M. Kulasegaran highlighted to the court that there is still a committal order and arrest warrant against Muhammad Riduan over the latter’s failure to comply with a court order to return the third child that he had snatched away from Indira.
“The question is whether he should be allowed to address the court. In the last seven years since the case begun, the appellant (Indira) has not seen her daughter,” Kulasegaran said, later noting that Muhammad Riduan had in the past years failed to appear in court.
Another lawyer acting for Indira, K. Shanmuga, then proposed that the court give Muhammad Riduan until tomorrow to purge his contempt by showing up in court with the snatched child, before the court decides on whether the father should be allowed to be heard in court.
Muhammad Riduan’s lawyer Hatim Musa told the judges that he had only been informed several days earlier that Indira’s lawyers was objecting to his client’s unpurged contempt of court, adding: “If it was told to me earlier, maybe I could advise (him) to come”.
Among other things, Hatim said his client was “afraid” of bounty offers for his capture to be brought to court, further saying he will try to persuade his client to come.
“I have difficulties in contacting him,” he told the court.
When met outside the courtroom, Hatim confirmed that the last time he had been in direct contact with his client was after a Court of Appeal decision last December in his favour, adding that he has since been in contact only through multiple “third parties” — which he did not name.
Hatim told reporters that he was only representing Muhammad Riduan for the child conversion case, while two different lawyers had represented the Muslim convert in two matters regarding custody of the three children and committal proceedings for contempt of court respectively.
He confirmed that he had previously informed the “third party” of today’s hearing date as soon as court dates were fixed.
“Tomorrow the court will ask me to ask him to come but just now I asked for more time because I’m afraid he may be living far away. But I will inform him, whether he wants to come or not, it’s up to him,” he said.
Earlier, Hatim told the Federal Court that he had previously proposed to both sides that the “status quo” be maintained in the interests of the welfare of the children.
He explained to reporters his suggestion, saying: “In this case, two children past the age of 18 are with the mother, only one is with the father.
“To me, it’s simple. Would the child want to see the father imprisoned only because of custody dispute over the children, over the younger siblings? So to me, (for) the welfare of the child, the parents’ welfare, therefore we shouldn’t break this relationship even though we have a crisis in court, let it be,” he said.
The other judges on the panel today are Chief Judge of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, Tan Sri Abu Samah Nordin, Tan Sri Ramly Ali and Tan Sri Zainun Ali.
The lawyers holding watching brief today are Honey Tan for the Malaysian Bar, Goh Siu Lin for seven NGOs and Andy Yong for political party Gerakan.
The police have previously said they have yet to be able to locate Muhammad Riduan’s location and had also sought for information from the public.
Indira’s appeal today is against the Court of Appeal’s 2-1 ruling last December, in which it said only the Shariah courts have the jurisdiction to decide on the validity of a person’s conversion.
The Court of Appeal had set aside the Ipoh High Court’s 2013 judgement, which found that the three children had not been validly converted to Islam and declared their conversion certificates null and void.
In her legal challenge against the children’s unilateral conversion, Indira had named the Perak Islamic Religious Department (JAIPk) director, the Registrar of Muallaf, the Perak state government, the Education Ministry, the government of Malaysia and Indira’s ex-husband K. Pathmanathan as respondents.
After converting to Islam on March 11, 2009, Pathmanathan — now Muhammad Riduan Abdullah — left the house almost three weeks later with their youngest child.
On April 2, 2009, he then converted all three children to Islam — then aged 12 years old, 11 years old, and 11 months old — without their knowledge and presence, and without Indira’s consent, before going to the Shariah courts several days later to obtain custody over them.
With Indira’s eldest daughter Tevi Darsiny now an adult at 19 and son Karan Dinish having turned 18 last month, both are now old enough to decide their own faiths.
As for the third child, Prasana Diksa, she is now eight years old and her location remains unknown after being snatched by her father Muhammad Riduan Abdullah seven years ago.
Source : IDA LIM@The Malay Mail Online