A new Federal Court decision on illegitimate Muslim children seems to have answered one question but thrown up others. What exactly are the issues surrounding this case? Elsewhere in today’s newsletter, a construction site mishap in Kuala Lumpur has raised concerns about the safety of projects, and Malaysia has barred cruise ships from docking here for fear they may be bringing Covid-19 into the country.

Suffer the little children

‘Sins of the parents’

In a landmark ruling on Friday, the Federal Court ruled that the words “bin Abdullah” be removed from the birth cert of a purportedly illegitimate Muslim boy. However, the court also went on to say the boy couldn’t carry his father’s name. So what’s the deal exactly?

Well, you can check out the proper sequence of events that led from the kid’s birth to the Apex court’s decision here, however, the TL;DR version is this: 

In 2015, the child’s father – reported in the media as MEMK to protect his kid’s identity – applied to have the “Abdullah” patronym replaced with his own name in his son’s birth certificate.

The National Registration Department (NRD) uses ‘bin Abdullah’ to identify Muslim kids born out of wedlock, or more specifically, in this case, Muslim kids born less than six months into a marriage, in accordance to a 2003 National Fatwa Council edict.

Unfortunately, the application was rejected, and MEMK and his wife proceeded with a suit against the NRD. 

In 2016, the High Court dismissed the lawsuit. However, that decision was overturned on appeal by the Court of Appeal in 2017, with the court ruling there was no law per se requiring “Abdullah” to be used for illegitimate children, just a fatwa. 

The Federal Court’s new ruling though, takes a quite different view.

On the one hand, the Apex court’s decision means that the NRD has to remove the “bin Abdullah” illegitimacy indicator from the boy’s BC. Reason being that while Johor has since gazetted the fatwa relating to the registration of illegitimate children, it had not done so at the time of the case. Thing is, the kid is also not being allowed to carry his dad’s name, which is why groups like Sisters in Islam (SIS) are now confused as to what the child’s last name should actually be.

SIS also brought up another concern that disallowing kids born out of wedlock from carrying their father’s name could lead to stigmatisation. 

The women’s rights group isn’t alone in its view too, as other commentators have voiced pretty much the same thing, with writer Zan Azlee, for one, noting that if anyone should be held responsible for such a “sin”, it should be parents, and not innocent children.

Penang mufti Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor holds a similar point of view. In fact, Wan Salim feels that it might also be time to revise the old fatwa that banned Muslim illegitimate children from carrying their father’s name. Islamic teachings, the mufti says, are based on justice, wisdom, honour and goodwill. As such, there needs to wisdom in appreciating the psychological effects such a ruling can have on the children concerned.

Unfortunately, despite the many views, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa saying he’ll meet with state muftis to discuss the matter further, the Federal Court’s ruling will stand as law for now.

Collapsing houses

Two workers were trapped in the rubble when a portion of an under-construction condo collapsed on Friday afternoon, and now everyone wants to know what’s gonna happen to the project.

First things first, the good news is both workers were rescued that day itself, and one of them has already been discharged from hospital. Unfortunately, while other workers have since moved out of their on-site living quarters, there still seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding the issue, especially in regard to what’s next?

Yep, the government has issued a stop-work order pending a probe by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) and even suspended the project’s sales licence. However, a group comprising Taman Desa residents associations is demanding not just a thorough and transparent investigation, but an explanation as to why the land, which it claims had been designated as a green lung, was allowed to be developed in the first place.

According to the group too, soon after GE14, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok had promised a town hall session to discuss the matter once a federal territories minister was appointed. However, no such meeting has materialised in the two years since. Worse, it seems like this isn’t the first time a mishap has occurred – in January 2018, a crane collapsed into the compound of an adjacent condo resulting in damage to a boundary wall.

The group is right to be concerned, of course. Construction site mishaps keep occurring here (like on June 25 last year, when the corridor of another partially-completed condo gave way). And it sure as hell looks like nothing very much is being done to address the problem what with DOSH stats recording 169 deaths and 3,911 accidents in the construction sector in 2018 alone.

Clearly, there’s a pressing need to tighten the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994 to prevent shit like from occurring. But as social activist Lee Lam Thye points out, what we also really need is transparency. Folks, he says, often hear about probes being carried out following mishaps. Unfortunately, the findings are never made known and the result is more and more incidents.

Of course, it’s anyone’s guess whether anything will change, regardless of the seriousness of the issue, and the promises being made.

Dilarang masuk

Eight Covid-19 patients have recovered so far and been discharged, but Malaysia is taking no chances and has barred all cruise ships from or which previously visited China from docking here. The reason: a cruise ship passenger testing positive for Covid-19 upon arrival in the country.

The 83-year-old American woman, who’d been on board the MS Westerdam, that’d docked in Cambodia on Thursday, was among 144 others who were flown here on a specially chartered MAS flight. 

The ship, in case you’re wondering, had departed Hong Kong on Feb 1 and was due to end its journey in Shanghai. However, the vessel switched course for Yokohama, Japan soon after departure, due to Covid-19. Unfortunately, it wasn’t allowed to dock there, nor in Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand. Finally, Cambodia let the ship in.

Cambodian authorities had initially said the passengers were all clear. However, two positive tests on the American woman have raised fears of the disease being imported into Malaysia by other infected persons, not only from the Westerdam, but also other cruise ships around Asia. (FYI: The biggest cluster of infection outside China now is on board the Diamond Princess, docked off Japan, with 355 people from 3,700 passengers and crew on board apparently infected.)

The other Westerdam passengers who arrived with the woman, including her husband, all tested negative. Nevertheless, a few of them were bumped from a flight out of the country following news of the American’s positive test, so they remain in Malaysia. 

On Sunday night, the Health Ministry confirmed the remaining six passengers – four Americans and two Dutch nationals – here have all tested negative for a second time. However, infectious diseases expert Stanley Deresinski says there might still be cause for concern that those who’ve already left could end up spreading the disease. 

According to the Stanford University professor, there’s a possibility that infected persons who are asymptomatic “could start a chain of infection wherever they return to”. Meaning, these people may not show signs and symptoms of being sick, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t.

Incidentally, the worldwide death toll now stands at 1,770 (mainly from mainland China where the outbreak originated from), with over 71,000 people infected. Yet over 10,000 cases have since recovered.

This and that

Not a whole lot more happened over the weekend, but here are some bits and bobs you should definitely know about heading into Monday.

  • Econs Minister and PKR deputy president Azmin Ali wants folks to stop politicking and throw their support behind PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad to help the country’s economy grow. We wonder what Ezam Mohd Nor, Anwar Ibrahim’s former pol-sec who’s accused Azmin of colluding with PAS to prevent the PKR boss from becoming PM, will have to say about that.
     
  • Drunk drivers found guilty of causing death may soon be faced with fines of up to RM100,000 and jail terms of up to 20 years. According to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, the almost 7,000 fatal road accidents yearly has made amendments to the existing law – S.41 of the Road Transport Act 1987, which currently provides for a fine of up to RM20,000 and up to 10 years in jail – necessary, and we agree.
     
  • There’ll be free nasi lemak at the National Art Gallery from 10am today thanks to artists celebrating the reinstatement of four artworks to Ahmad Fuad Osman’s exhibition. The pieces had been removed earlier this month for apparently being obscene and offensive, although the national gallery was vague as to exactly how, prompting protests from artists and the public.
     
  • Universiti Malaya claims it didn’t make anyone carry out health screenings on students from China following the Covid-19 outbreak and those who were involved, had volunteered. The uni added it was merely centralising its surveillance procedures and not quarantining returning students from China at the 10th Residential College (KK10).

“My father had a profound influence on me, he was a lunatic.”

- Spike Milligan -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Manchester City is banned from the UEFA Champions League for the next two seasons for breaching financial fair play regulations. The reigning English champions have also been fined £24.9m for their crime. The club has, of course, vowed to challenge the ban. However, as it stands, City could only feature again in the competition in 2022/2023.
     
  • Police have arrested a Russian performance artist and his girlfriend over the release of a video that allegedly features a French mayoral candidate. The artist, Petr Pavlensky, who was granted political asylum in France in 2017, says he published the vids to highlight the candidate’s hypocrisy. 
     
  • Up-and-coming pole vault star Armand Duplantis broke the world record he set just a week earlier when he cleared 6.18 metres on his first attempt at the Indoor Grand Prix in Glasgow on Saturday.

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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