Sunday, June 5, 2016

No room for hudud law

The Sunday Star
With All Due Respect by Roger Tan

No political acquiescence: Barisan Nasional component party leaders have resolved to stand against PAS’ Hudud Bill. From left are MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, SUPP deputy president Datuk Seri Richard Riot Jaem and MCA secretary-general Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan.
PAS’ proposed Syariah Courts amendments are no less controversial even when we look at them objectively. The clash of laws will only give rise to another set of headaches to our multi-religious and multi-racial society. PAS’ proposed Syariah Courts Act amendments are no less controversial even when we look at them objectively. The clash of laws will only give rise to another set of headaches to our multi-religious and multi-racial society. 

IT was indeed unusual. On May 26, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said moved a motion allowing opposition MP, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s Private Member’s Bill (PMB) to take precedence over government business. This has enabled Abdul Hadi’s PMB to leapfrog over government matters, thus allowing it to be tabled. Abdul Hadi had tried twice since 2015 and failed, but now his PMB will be debated in the October parliamentary session.

Needless to say, the non-Muslim Barisan Nasional leaders felt slighted as they were obviously caught unawares.

Abdul Hadi’s PMB, entitled the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) (Amendment) Bill 2016, seeks to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, 1965 (Act 355); as Umno leaders had explained, it was intended to enhance the powers of Syariah Courts.

However, the exhilarated PAS leaders had no hesitation to proclaim that it was to pave the way for the implementation of hudud punishment in Kelantan via the Syariah Criminal Code II (1993) 2015 (SCC) passed by the Kelantan State Legislature on March 19 last year.

The preamble to the SCC clearly states that this state enactment is for the creation of Syariah hudud criminal offences. Under the SCC, there are six types of hudud offences – sariqah (theft), hirabah (robbery), zina (unlawful sexual intercourse such as adultery, pre-marital sex and sodomy), qazaf (accusation of zina which cannot be proven without four witnesses), syurb (consuming liquor or intoxicating drinks), and irtadad or riddah (apostasy).

Emotion aside, let us now look at this controversial subject strictly from the legal perspective.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sungai Layang Dam now at critical level

Pic by Zulkarnian Ahmad Tajuddin, New Straits Times
The Star

JOHOR BARU: The water level at the Sg Layang Dam has dropped to a critical level. The dam will only be able to supply water for between two and three weeks if the present weather persists.

So far, the authorities have not started any water rationing or scheduled water cuts for about 500,000 residents who get their supply from the dam.

The dam supplies water to those in Pasir Gudang and Johor Baru.

National Water Services Commission (SPAN) chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Ridhuan Ismail said that there was a high possibility of water cuts being implemented if the situation did not improve.

“The water level at Sungai Layang is now at 19.58m which is way below critical level of 23.5m.

“It is alarming because the level seems to be consistently dropping by about 0.03/0.04 metres per day,” he told reporters after visiting the Sungai Layang water treatment plant here.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Resolving tugs of war

The Sunday Star 
With All Due Respect by Roger Tan

The Federal Court ruling on the custody battle between a Muslim convert and his Hindu ex-wife was a landmark decision. Can the thorny issue of unilateral conversion be finally be put to rest?

The much-awaited decision of the Federal Court involving S. Deepa and her former husband, now a Muslim convert, Izwan Abdullah, delivered on Feb 10, is sort of a landmark decision.

Deepa and Izwan (whose Hindu name is N. Viran) registered their civil marriage on March 19, 2003, under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act, 1976 (Act 164). They have two children, a girl, V. Shamila and a boy, V. Mithran. ­Both were Hindus at the time of their birth. 

On Nov 26, 2012, Viran converted to Islam. On Jan 4, 2013, Izwan unilaterally converted the two minors to Islam surreptitiously without the knowledge or consent of Deepa. 

Shamila’s Muslim name is Nur Nabila Izwan while Mithran is named Muhammad Nabil Izwan. On May 15, 2013, Izwan also managed to obtain a dissolution order of his civil marriage with Deepa from the Seremban Syariah High Court under section 46(2) of the Islamic Family Law (Negri Sembilan) Enactment 2003. Then on Sept 19, 2013, Izwan was granted permanent custody of the two children by the Syariah High Court with Deepa having visitation rights and access to the children.

Meanwhile, upon the application of Deepa, the civil marriage was dissolved by the Seremban Civil High Court on April 7, 2014. The same court also granted permanent custody of the children to Deepa with Izwan having weekly access to the children. However, two days later, Izwan took Mithran away from Deepa’s house. Deepa then applied for and obtained a recovery order from the Civil High Court pursuant to section 53 of the Child Act, 2001. 

Izwan appealed to the Court of Appeal against the custody order as well as the recovery order. On Dec 17, 2014, the Court of Appeal dismissed both appeals. 

On Feb 10, the Federal Court ruled that as long as one parent was non-Muslim, the Syariah Court had no jurisdiction to hear any matter pertaining to the marriage solemnised under civil law at the very beginning (ab initio). The court also granted custody of Shamila (Nurul Nabila), 11, to Deepa, while son Mithran (Nabil), eight, is to live with Izwan. 

To be fair to the panel of five Federal Court judges chaired by the Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Raus Sharif who also delivered the decision of the apex court, the issue of unilateral conversion was not addressed simply because the court was asked to determine only two questions of law, namely:

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Platform for strata woes

The Sunday Star 
With All Due Respect by Roger Tan

On board: Senior lawyer Teh Yoke Hooi, the only woman president, receiving her letter of appointment from Dahlan, flanked by the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Mohammad Mentek and Norhayati.
With the Strata Management Tribunal, the myriad of related disputes should be effectively dealt with.  

ON July 9 this year, 20 lawyers received their letters of appointment as presidents of the Strata Management Tribunal from Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister, Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan. 

The much-awaited Strata Management Act, 2013 (Act 757), initiated by the previous minister, Tan Sri Chor Chee Heung, finally came into force on June 1, 2015, in the peninsula except for Penang which came into operation on June 12, 2015.

The Strata Management (Strata Management Tribunal) Regulations, 2015, came into effect on July 1, 2015. Act 757 also repealed the Building and Common Property (Maintenance and Management) Act, 2007 (Act 663).

In fact, the tribunal is the precursor of the Strata Titles Board set up under the repealed provisions of the Strata Titles Act, 1985 (Act 318) which really did not take off despite Act 318 being amended on Dec 1, 2000, and again on April 12, 2007.

The tribunal’s headquarters is based in Putrajaya whilst offices have also been set up in Penang, Johor Baru and Kuala Terengganu (See table). The chairman of the tribunal is Norhayati Ahmad.

With more than three million Malaysians living in various stratified buildings, it is hoped that this tribunal will be an effective forum for the various stakeholders to settle their disputes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

131 receive awards from King

Proud moment: The King
bestowing the Darjah 
Panglima Jasa Negara upon
Tan at the investiture ceremony
in Istana Negara. — Bernama
KUALA LUMPUR: The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, presented awards and medals to 131 people in conjunction with his birthday on June 6.

Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajah Haminah was also present at the investiture held at Istana Negara here.

Heading the list of recipients yesterday was Education Services Commission chairman Tan Sri Dr Haili Dolhan, who received the Darjah Panglima Setia Mahkota (PSM) award, which carries the title “Tan Sri”.

Among those who received the Panglima Jasa Negara award, which carries the title “Datuk” (PJN) were Roger Tan & Nurul senior partner Datuk Roger Tan Kor Mee.

Tan holds a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) degree from Queen Mary College, University of London, and Master of Laws from the National University of Singapore.

He is currently a commissioner of the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) and president of the Strata Management Tribunal. — Bernama

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mourning a great leader

The Sunday Star
Legally Speaking by Roger Tan 

IN MEMORY: Sunday Star columnist Roger Tan paying tribute to the late Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew in the condolence book at the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.
Spontaneous and emotional outpouring of grief by Singaporeans is indeed a testament to Lee Kuan Yew’s extraordinary achievement in creating a united nation out of a divided, polyglot, multi-racial and multi-religious population.

THE fact that today our Yang di-Pertuan Agong will represent Malaysia at Lee Kuan Yew’s funeral – an epochal event in the history of Singapore – speaks volumes of the island’s founding father as the greatest statesman in South-East Asia. 

In fact, President Richard Nixon held him up as a leader of similar stature as Winston Churchill. Most importantly, Lee was also instrumental in the formation of Malaysia and hence he and a generation of Singaporeans were once, albeit briefly, Malaysians between 1963 and 1965. 

Born on Sept 16, 1923, Lee read law at Cambridge University and obtained a starred double first and started practising as a lawyer in 1950 for almost a decade. As a legal assistant, he took up cases for trade unions, often on a pro bono basis. This undoubtedly helped him later to generate mass support for him when he became prime minister in 1959. 

Almost half a million Singaporeans have already turned up at Parliament House and the 18 community tribute sites to pay their last respects to the nonagenarian. Thousands more did not mind queuing for up to 10 hours the night before in order to reach the Parliament House where the body is lying in state. 

This spontaneous and emotional outpouring of grief by Singaporeans is indeed a testament to Lee’s extraordinary achievement in creating a united nation out of a divided, polyglot, multi-racial and multi-religious population. It is ironic that someone who had believed in Machiavelli, making him the most feared person in Singapore, is now someone who is most loved by his people. It is understandable that Singaporeans’ biggest regret is that their founding father would not be there on Aug 9 for their 50th national day celebrations. 

Lee was indeed a great leader in every sense of the word. He was humble enough to say sorry if he was wrong and if it was in the best interest of his county to do so. Hence, he had apologised to Malaysia a few times for some of his acerbic comments. 

He was also a first-class diplomat whose advice was often sought by leaders of superpowers even though he was just the head of “a little red dot” on the world map. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Moderation is the key, says lawyer

The Star 
by Adrian Chan 
One for the album: Liow (right) posing with speakers at the forum (from left) Dr Tan Chong Tin, Datuk Dr Hou Kok Chung, Tan, Tan Sri Dr Ghauth Jasmon, Prof Mohamad and Dr Chandra (front).
KUALA LUMPUR: Moderation is the key that opened the door to the formation of our Federal Constitution, says lawyer Roger Tan Kor Mee. 

“Our Constitution is moderate and balances the competing interests of the country’s various communities.

“If not for moderation, we would not have been able to put together a written constitution,” said Tan, who is also a columnist for The Star.

He said while the Constitution guaranteed many rights for the citizens, it also demanded that moderation be exercised with self-restraint, self-control and self-discipline.

“The thought of resorting to violence should never even cross the mind of anyone,” he said.

Tan added that in a moderate society, a person should be able to hold a rational discourse with his peers even on sensitive issues affecting his community.