Rights group questions DPM’s sincerity in resolving Kelantan child bride case

Yiswaree Palansamy
Lawyer Latheefa Koya and others have kept up a campaign of criticism towards Dr Wan Azizah due to her portfolio, accusing her of not taking adequate action against the Kelantan man and child marriages in general. — Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 3 — Lawyers for Liberty accused Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail of misleading the public in the case of the 11-year-old child bride in Kelantan, claiming the latter made false statements about the matter.

LFL executive director Latheefa Koya, who is also from Dr Wan Azizah’s PKR, also harangued the latter for what the lawyer described as a “catastrophic” handling of the issue and a “cavalier” approach towards the welfare of a minor.

Among others, Latheefa accused the women, family and community development minister of making false statements when claiming the Kelantan man never had access to the girl or that she was never in “immediate danger”.

“In fact the UK Guardian newspaper revealed over the weekend that the 41 year old paedophile ‘husband’ had sexual relations with the child.

“Is this true? If so, it is a horrific violation of an 11 year old child. Wan Azizah must come clean on this,” Latheefa said in a statement.

She also castigated the PKR president for “abdicating” the responsibility of safeguarding the girl’s welfare, noting that Thai authorities took immediate and convincing action by completely sequestering the girl upon her return to the country.

The lawyer insisted such care and protection should have come from Malaysia.

“This is because the child had lived all her life in Malaysia, where her parents had also lived for 20 years. The poor girl does not even speak the Thai language.

“Yet the minister had no qualms to pluck her out of the home and environment she has known all her life and send her off to an unfamiliar country,” she said.

She asked the DPM to explain how this was in the girl’s interest, before adding that the transfer to Thailand was also done covertly and only discovered through press reports.

Last week, The Guardian newspaper reported that medical tests showed the 11-year-old has had sexual relations despite 41-year old husband Che Abdul Karim Che Hamid’s claim he would not bed her at this tender age.

Latheefa and others have kept up a campaign of criticism towards Dr Wan Azizah due to her portfolio, accusing her of not taking adequate action against the Kelantan man and child marriages in general.

The man was previously fined over the matter, but only for improper documentation of the marriage rather than for taking a young girl for his bride.

Dr Wan Azizah said in July that a more thorough investigation was required for the case as the Attorney-General’s Chambers wanted more evidence to be gathered and to enable a “watertight” case.

The case triggered renewed controversy over child marriages in the country.

In Malaysia, the minimum legal age for marriage for Muslims in the states’ Islamic family laws is 18 and 16 for a male and female respectively, but those below these ages can still marry if they get the consent of a Shariah judge.

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