The High Court today dismissed the Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council’s (MAIP) application to intervene in a divorce petition between a single mother, Loh Siew Hong, and her ex-husband Muhammad Nagahswaran Muniandy, who converted to Islam with their three children.
Judge Evrol Mariette Peters made the decision after finding that MAIPs had failed to show that it was an interested party in relation to the children, and ordered MAIPs to pay Loh costs of RM8,000.
“The children are not orphans. They do not belong to the community of Perlis. They reside in Selangor and went to Perlis for the conversion only,” she said.
The judge added that the state religious body had also failed to seek the views of the former husband in relation to the bid to vary Loh’s full custody order.
On March 7, MAIPs filed the intervention application so that it would have locus standi to apply for a variation on the terms of the sole custody order granted to Loh.
In the divorce petition, Loh, 34, was granted the sole custody, care and control over the three children: 14-year-old twin girls and a 10-year-old boy.
Peters, in her judgment, said even in the event that the children’s conversion was done properly, MAIPs would not be allowed to intervene as it only has jurisdiction over Muslims in Perlis.
She added that MAIPs had failed to prove that Loh did not ensure that her children continued to receive religious education.
She said the family’s role of safeguarding the interest of the children could be seen in the analogy of inviting guests into the family home.
“The application to seek leave to intervene in Loh’s divorce proceedings is equivalent to asking the court with MAIPs as the dinner host to enter the home and eventually sit at dinner with the family.
“The host here is the family court which has to be cautious of the guests invited to dinner as there are children in the house that need to be protected. If the host is cautious of the guests, it is better not to allow them to enter as that would waste not only their time but also the host’s.
“My decision is that even if the children are in fact Muslims, this intervener application by MAIPs must fail as it failed to show it is an interested party,” said the judge.
Loh was also present in court.
After the judge delivered the decision, Nagahswaran’s counsel, Malcom Fernandez, said his client who is currently serving a jail term in Machang, Kelantan, had filed an application to obtain access to communicate with his children via video conference each week.
However, Loh’s counsel A Srimurugan said he needed to seek instruction from his client on the matter.
Fernandez then proposed that the court interview the children on the matter to which the judge disagreed.
“I do not like to interview the children because it can be intimidating. Please remember, this is about children’s rights and not about parent’s rights,” she said and set July 4 for further case management.