Hindu mum Loh Siew Hong drops bid to stop Perlis Islamic council from intervening in her divorce, focusing on fight against children’s conversion

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 — Hindu mother Loh Siew Hong today discontinued her bid at the Federal Court to stop the Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIPs) from intervening or becoming part of her divorce case.

Loh will instead focus on a Court of Appeal hearing next month where she is challenging the validity of her ex-husband’s unilateral conversion of her three children to Islam.

When contacted by Malay Mail, Loh’s lead counsel A. Srimurugan said his client had this morning filed at the Federal Court the notice to discontinue her application for leave to appeal, and that MAIPs had agreed to this.

“Parties by consent have agreed to withdraw the application for leave to appeal to Federal Court, with no order as to costs,” he told Malay Mail.

When contacted, Loh’s lawyer J. Gunamalar also confirmed to Malay Mail that both parties had agreed to withdraw the matter regarding MAIPs as an intervener without cost and that the withdrawal of the application for leave to appeal at the Federal Court was filed today.

The Federal Court was scheduled to hear tomorrow Loh’s application for leave to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision this February to allow MAIPs to be an intervener in her divorce case.

While Loh was in March 2021 given sole custody of her three children as part of her divorce case, MAIPs in March 2022 applied to be an intervener in order to be able to vary or make changes to the court’s custody order including giving Islamic education to the children.

The High Court on June 15, 2022 dismissed MAIPs’ bid to be an intervener, but the Court of Appeal on February 7, 2023 allowed MAIPs’ appeal and allowed it to be made an intervener.

Srimurugan said Loh will instead be focusing on a separate court case, where she is asking the Court of Appeal to determine if her three children’s conversion to Islam in 2020 — by the ex-husband without her consent — was lawful.

“The Court of Appeal is scheduled to hear the legality of the conversion of three children on October 19, 2023. And in the event, the appeal is allowed, all other applications and proceedings will become redundant, so it is on that reason why we discontinue the leave application,” he said.

Srimurugan explained that if the Court of Appeal rules that the three children’s conversions to Islam are null and void, MAIPs would no longer have legal standing to make the application to make changes to the court order granting custody of the three children. Previously, the High Court had on May 11 this year dismissed Loh’s challenge against her children’s conversion.

“That’s the reason why we are withdrawing leave to appeal, because we are concentrating on the hearing on October 19,” he said.

What MAIPs wants to change in the custody order

Separately, on Wednesday, High Court judge Hayatul Akmal Abdul Aziz is scheduled to hear MAIPs’ application to vary or to ask for changes to be made to the court’s custody order of Loh’s three children.

As part of its application filed on February 17 to vary the custody order given in Loh’s favour, MAIPs reportedly wanted to get supervised access to her children twice a week for guidance and basic religious education and to bring the children to observe Islamic celebrations.

Loh’s appeal next month at the Court of Appeal on the validity of her children’s conversion to Islam — which is expected to be heard on October 19 — is expected have an outcome that would affect all other matters, including MAIPs’s application that will be heard on Wednesday.

What happened before all the court cases

The three children were born to Loh and her ex-husband Nagahswaran Muniandy in a civil marriage, or when the couple were both non-Muslims.

The ex-husband had in 2019 took the three children away while Loh was hospitalised with injuries which she claimed he had inflicted.

The ex-husband on July 7, 2020 converted to Islam, and brought the three children — when they were aged between nine and 11 — to also be converted to Islam without Loh’s consent.

In 2021, the couple’s divorce was finalised and the High Court granted Loh full and sole custody of the three children.

But Loh was only reunited with her three children when the High Court on February 21, 2022 ordered the trio’s immediate release from alleged unlawful detention.