Malaysiakini today reported yet another conversion case, but this time it involves the mother and her two children.
For the last 10 months, gardener T Darma Kanu has been searching in vain for his two young sons after his wife left their home in Ipoh with them.
Three weeks ago, he received an affidavit dated April 1 stating that his wife, S Nalina Devi, had not only converted to Islam on Nov 21 last year, but had also converted the boys, aged six and five.
The documents sent by her lawyer included a Syariah Court order informing Darma to pay RM500 a month to Nalina for the children’s maintenance.
Darma, 38, who works for the Ipoh Municipal Council, told Malaysiakini that he has not seen his wife - now known as Nur Nalina Devi Abdullah - or the children since they left home on June 27 last year.
“I came home after work that night, but the house was empty. I called out for my wife but she was not there. All the things in the house were missing as well,” he recounted over the phone.
Neighbours later told him that his wife had hired a lorry to remove the household items.
He said she has not been in touch with him or even her own family since then. Although he had tried to contact her on her mobile phone, she did not answer the calls.
“I can't figure out why she left... we got married because we loved one another. She went off without saying anything. I just can't accept what had happened,” he said.
“My wife's family members are all supporting me because they don't know what came upon her to just take off like that.”
Darma said he reported her disappearance to the police, as he wanted to get his sons back. However, he claimed the police would not help on the ground that this was a family matter.
Last September, he filed an application in the Ipoh High Court, seeking access to and custody of his sons. He then sent a text message to his wife, asking if she wanted to be involved in a joint custody petition.
“At first she agreed. She called my lawyer and gave him an address... but when we went there to look for her, we found out that the place belonged to a man,” claimed Darma, saying he had reason to believe that it was someone who used to work with Nalina.
“The court proceedings went on as scheduled, but she never showed up. On Nov 21 last year, the High Court ruled that I could have interim access to my sons.”
Based on the affidavit, he realised that Nalina had converted to Islam with the boys that day.
“I suspect that she did so to escape her responsibilities to me, and so that she could stop me from seeing my children,” he said.
“She should not have done that. It is unfair to me. I too have a say as to what religion my children should be brought up in, until they are old enough to decide for themselves.”
Nonetheless, Darma said all he wants for now is to meet with his children, and to sort out other issues relating to his marital status later.
Although interim order was served on Nalina’s lawyer the same day it was issued by the court, Darma still has not seen the boys nor heard from his wife.
The case for permanent custody is scheduled to be heard in the High Court on May 20. Previous attempts to hold the hearing could not proceed because of Nalina’s absence.
When contacted today, Darma’s lawyer P Murali said Nalina’s case is being handled by the Legal Aid Bureau.
“When I asked why she wasn’t in court, they said she was in Johor Bahru with the children. When I asked for the address, they refused to divulge it even to the court. As such, the judge set a hearing date and ordered her to be present,” he said.
Should Nalina fail to respond to the subpoena for the upcoming hearing, said Murali, she could be cited for contempt and a warrant of arrest may be issued.
He also claimed that, although her lawyers had been present in court on all the mention dates, no one had informed Darma or the court of Nalina’s religious status.
This was only revealed when the affidavit arrived. In it, Nalina said she wanted the civil court to grant her permanent custody, since the Syariah Court hads already done so on Nov 27, 2008.
A member of Nalina’s legal team reserved comment when contacted, saying she would first have to refer the matter to her superior.