Friday, December 01, 2006

A tussle over a dead man's body

Reading the following news article in the Sun today, I shake my head, I shake my head......... May God bless his soul. Rest in peace, Rayappan Anthony.

Family, JAIS in tussle over body
Charles Ramendran, The Sun Malaysia.

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 1, 2006): A tussle between the family of a dead man and the Selangor Religious Department (JAIS) at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital mortuary came to a deadlock yesterday when both parties did not reach a decision on who had the right to the remains of the man, who had embraced Islam but had, years later, renounced the religion.

The grief-stricken family members suffered a second blow when JAIS officers told them that 71-year-old Rayappan Anthony, who died on Wednesday at KLH following prolonged illness, was a Muslim and restrained them from claiming his body.

"He was calling out the name of Jesus in his death bed. He never observed the Muslim way of life as he consumed pork and alcohol and had never fasted. He went to church and had even received Holy Communion from a priest days before his death," said Rayappan's daughter Jeya Mary.

"Now, after all these years of caring for him, why has JAIS turned up at this painful moment to take away the body of my father, who is no longer a Muslim. Where is the justice?"

Rayappan's family admitted that he was born a Roman Catholic and had six children from his Christian marriage, but had converted to Islam in 1990 when he married a Muslim woman.

The children said they were not aware of their father's Muslim status until he returned to them for good eight years later.

Lawyer A. Sivanesan, who is representing the family, said Rayappan, who was known as Muhammad Rayappan Abdullah after the conversion, had made a statutory declaration with a commissioner of oaths in 1999, stating his wish to renounce Islam and return to Christianity.

He said the documents, which were prepared by a lawyer and executed by the commissioner of oaths, were submitted to the National Registration Department (NRD), which accepted the declaration and reinstated Rayappan's religious status to Christianity.

"When we showed the JAIS officers the MyKad, they told us, Ôitu MyKad boleh koyak dan buang' (that MyKad you can tear it up and throw it away).

"They said the details in it are invalid," said Jeya.

He said the NRD had also issued a MyKad, which stated Rayappan's religion as Christianity.

At about 3pm yesterday, Sivanesan and the family, and JAIS officers and the Kuala Lumpur Religious Department (Jawi) met at a room in the mortuary to discuss the matter for an hour.

Sivanesan said JAIS had only produced a card issued in 2005, which showed that Rayappan was a Muslim, to substantiate their claim.

"In 2005, he was leading the life of a Christian. They (JAIS) did not provide or show any other document to say he was a Muslim," he said.

Sivanesan also expressed disappointment over the lack of transparency by the JAIS officers, who told him they need not substantiate the dead man's Muslim status with other documents and had the right to claim his body.

He said JAIS officer told him they will seek an order from a syariah court early today to claim the body and perform a Muslim burial.


Anonymous said...

MAIS subpoenas Rayappan's daughters, siblings lodge police report
Charles Ramendran

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 5, 2006): The family of Rayappan Anthony today lodged a report with the Brickfields police after three officers from the Selangor Islamic Council (MAIS) turned up at their house late yesterday to serve them a subpoenas to attend a hearing at the Shah Alam Syariah Court.

Lawyer A.Sivanesan, who is representing the family said Rayappan's three daughters namely Mary, Jeya Mary and Josephine were served with a subpoena each to attend the hearing at 2.30pm today over the fate of their father's remains which lie in uncertainity in the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (KLH) mortuary.

However, he said the three sisters did not attend the hearing as they are non-Muslims and this nullifies the subpoenas.

In their report, the family stated that since they are Christians, they will only adhere to civil court laws.

Brickfields OCPD ACP Abdul Rahman Ibrahim said police will look into the report and will act if there was a criminal element involved.

Sivanesan said he had also served an injunction to KLH yesterday, which among others, refrained them from releasing the body to any other party apart from the deceased's family.

However, he said KLH had refused to accept the documents.

"This is very unbecoming of a hospital which is a government body. This is a letter of a civil court of law. How can they refuse to accept it?" he asked.

According to Sivanesan, MAIS was issued with a Syariah Court order to claim Rayappan's body last Friday (Dec 1, 2006) but it was revoked the following day due to some unknown reasons.

However, sources revealed that the order was cancelled following an intervention from the Attorney-General's office.

Anonymous said...

More than just religion
Jacqueline Ann Surin

PETALING JAYA (Dec 5, 2006): What does the latest tussle over a dead man between his Catholic family and the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (JAIS), who both want to bury him according to different religious rites, tell us?

Firstly, Rayappan Anthony's case is not isolated. It is part of a series of other cases involving deceased family members, including M. Moorthy and Chandran Dharmadass, whose purported conversion to Islam resulted in their families being unable to claim and bury their bodies.

This tells us that conversions into and out of Islam, and its attendant issues, is a phenomenon that will keep emerging for so long as Malaysia is a multi-cultural society.

Secondly, these cases have implications for all Malaysians that are larger than the families' grief, trauma and rights.

"Rayappan's case, like other conversion cases, is not simply a religious issue. It is first and foremost a Constitutional issue," lawyer Benjamin Dawson says.

Dawson, a constitutional lawyer who is involved in a prominent conversion case, is of the view that under Article 11(1) of the Constitution, it is the individual and not a third party who has the right to decide his or her religion.

"An affirmation by the individual is all that is required under Article 11(1) and this can be done by deed poll or a statutory declaration for someone to affirm their choice of religion," he argues.

It was reported Rayappan, 71, who died in Kuala Lumpur Hospital on Nov 29 following a prolonged illness, converted to Islam in 1990 after taking a Muslim wife. However, he returned to his first wife and family in 1999 and was baptised into his original faith.

Rayappan had signed a deed poll in 1999 at the NRD which approved his name change from Muhamad Rayappan Abdullah to Rayappan Anthony.

In 2000, the NRD also issued a MyKad to Rayappan that stated "Christian" as his religion.

However, JAIS, through the syariah court, is contesting Rayappan's change of religion, insisting he was still a Muslim.

Dawson argues that since an individual's choice of faith is a constitutional issue, neither JAIS nor the syariah court has the jurisdiction to nullify what an individual chooses.

"In Rayappan's case, a decision by a federal government body like the National Registration Department (NRD) that respects an individual's Constitutional right is being disregarded by a religious authority," Dawson notes.

Rayappan's experience with the NRD is different from Lina Joy's, whose case is before the Federal Court.

While the department approved Rayappan's application for changes in his IC to reflect his choice of faith, it has stipulated that Joy - a Malay Muslim who converted to Christianity - must get a syariah court declaration to acknowledge her choice of religion before it will drop "Islam" from her national registration identity card.

Joy's lawyers have argued that the NRD has misconstrued its powers and that the syariah court is not empowered to decide on conversions out of Islam.

When contacted, Peguam Pembela Islam (Lawyers in Defence of Islam) protem committee chairman Zainur Zakaria declined comment, and Syariah Lawyers' Association president Muhamad Burok could not be reached despite several attempts.

Lawyer Haris Ibrahim says another significant difference between Joy and Rayappan was that being alive, Joy is the best person to state what her faith is.

"The content of her IC is not conclusive. The IC only provides prima facie evidence," he says.

However, in the case of a deceased like Rayappan where there are competing claims over the person's faith, the courts have to rely on "extrinsic evidence" such as other official documents and corroborating evidence of a person's religious practices.

"Even though JAIS has produced a card, issued in 2005, that states that Rayappan converted to Islam, that card was issued by an official. Are there backup documents to show that Rayappan was part of that process? Is there evidence that points to him having a faith other than Islam?" Haris argues.

He stresses that it is the civil courts which need to evaluate the competing evidence involved because the syariah court has no jurisdiction over matters which involve both Muslim and non-Muslim parties.

Haris also says JAIS's dismissal of Rayappan's MyKad is not as problematic as the syariah court's ex-parte decision.

Anonymous said...

Body tussle case: RM10 million suit filed against MAIS
R.Surenthira Kumar - The Sun

SHAH ALAM (Dec 15, 2006): The family of the late A. Rayappan, whose body was the subject of a nine-day tussle, filed a RM10 million against the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) on Friday.

Rayappan's widow, M. Lourdes Mary, 65, her three daughters -- Mary, 46, Pushpa Mary, 40, Josephine, 44 -- and son, Lawrence, 39, sought general, exemplary, aggravated and special damages, citing MAIS for causing them emotional and mental duress and stress as a result of the body’s actions.

Lawyers A.Sivanesan and M.Manoharan, who are representing the family, filed the suit at about 3.30pm at the Shah Alam High Court.

Manoharan said another daughter of Rayappan, Jeyamary, will also be included later, bringing their claims to a total RM12 million.

Each of them are seeking RM2 million in damages.

Speaking to reporters after filing the suit, Sivanesan alleged that MAIS "misled" the Syariah Court by filing the case without having conclusive evidence on Rayappan's religion, claiming he is a Muslim, despite the family providing documentation that he had renounced Islam and returned to Christianity.

"MAIS together with the Selangor Religious Affairs Department (JAIS) was instrumental in stopping the family from claiming the body for nine days," said Sivanesan.

He added MAIS had refused to cooperate with them, being the family's lawyers, despite their corresponding with the officials on several occasions.

Sivanesan said the only time there was communication was when MAIS subpoenaed the daughters to give evidence at the Syariah court.

Manoharan said the family was also harassed to attend the Syariah court hearing despite refusing to do so.

He said the family was put in a state of indecisiviness, due to MAIS and JAIS intervention, which prevented them from proceeding with funeral plans.

Sivanesan said MAIS also acted irresponsibily when, after initially disrupting the body claiming process, did not have the courtesy to inform the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL), the family nor the lawyers when they decided to withdraw their case at the Syariah Court.

Manoharan said the family does not want others who are in the same boat as their father to suffer in future.

"This has to stop and MAIS must in future refrain from involving itself in cases where the victim has renounced Islam after embracing it earlier," added Manoharan.

He added they will serve a sealed copy of the suit on MAIS for them to react, He will also ask the court for an early hearing.