Women’s Aid Organisation
Press statement, 17 December 2014
For more information: Yu Ren Chung
We welcome the unanimous decisions by the Court of Appeal to reject the appeals made by Izwan Abdullah, S. Deepa’s ex-husband. Izwan appealed against the Custody Order granting Deepa custody of their two children, and against the Recovery Order compelling the police to retrieve Deepa’s son from Izwan and return him to Deepa. Both orders were issued by the High Court.
These decisions should not come as a surprise. As the lawyers acting for S. Deepa have argued, the law is very clear. The marriage between S. Deepa and her ex-husband Izwan Abdullah was solemnised under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act. Even if one spouse has converted to Islam, the High Court has jurisdiction over custody matters.
Deepa has gone through a lot, including domestic violence. In August 2013, the Syariah court gave custody of Deepa’s children to Izwan, without even hearing Deepa’s side of the story. In April 2014, the High Court—which heard both sides the story—issued a Custody Order granting custody to Deepa.
Instead of abiding by the Custody Order, Izwan violently abducted the then 5-year old son. A month later, the High Court issued a Recovery Order to compel the police to retrieve and return the son to Deepa. Izwan appealed against the orders; and today, the Court of Appeal has firmly rejected those appeals.
We hope all parties will abide by this decision, and not prolong the injustice towards Deepa and her children any further. We urge Izwan to return the son to Deepa, and the police to enforce the Recovery Order.
We regret the decision to allow a 3-week stay of execution of the Recovery Order, which is yet another delay for Deepa to see her son.
The “eminent 25” in their now famous letter, lamented that “religious bodies seem to be asserting authority beyond their jurisdiction.” The injustice Deepa and her children are facing is a result of exactly this overreach. To avoid future overreach we once again call for family laws to be amended to disallow unilateral conversions, as per the 2009 Cabinet decision.