Monday, March 22, 2010

Mansor Adabi and Maria (Nadrah)...part3

During the months before the scheduled Court Hearing on 20 November 1950, Maria was mostly kept away in seclusion, away from the gathering storm clouds outside. News of this dramatic case had circulated worldwide. The media coverage was on a global scale with several countries pledging financial and moral support for those on Mansor and Aminah's side. They saw the saga as part of the historical struggle between the Christian and Muslim world. In fact, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and others declared that, " any further move by the Dutch Government to separate the couple will be regarded as an open challenge to the Muslim world."

The Court Hearing - 20 November 1950
Again, a large crowd had formed outside the courthouse. The session was presided by Justice Brown ( I think he was the Chief Justice T.A. Brown ). Justice Brown had to consider 2 major points of contention:-
1. Was there a proper and legal adoption in the case of Maria ?

2. Was the purported marriage acceptable under the law?

Maria's natural mother Adeline Hertogh flew over from the Netherlands to attend the hearing. All the parties were present including Mansor Adabi, Che Aminah and Maria herself...and their counsels.
Under Dutch laws, the minimum age for a girl for marriage was 16 years.
However, our colonial English law in Singapore then recognised the marriage laws of the subjects' country of domicile. So, Maria being still a 13 year old minor of Dutch citizenship was under Dutch laws.
In the case of Mansor Adabi, an exception to the above could not be made out because Mansor was born in Kelantan and whether he was domiciled in Singapore could not be established. As for Maria the Court could not consider her a Muslim by law, since she was still a minor and therefore her father who had the legal right over her, had the same right to control her religion.
Her father, who was a Roman Catholic, had stated that he would never have allowed her to convert to Islam.

The Court Verdict
1. The short-lived marriage was overruled.
2. The Court awarded custody of Maria to the Hertoghs. Maria was ordered to be returned to
her natural parents with immediate effect.

Below....from the pages of Wikipedia...a detailed account describing the scene from the Court verdict of 20 November 1950 to early December 1950, before the Final Hearing and the riots.

Stay at the convent ( source: Wikipedia )
When policewomen came to take Maria away, she wept and clung to Aminah and Mansoor. Aminah fainted on the spot and a doctor standing by had to attend to her. Mansoor advised Maria to concede for the time being and promised that he and others would carry on the legal fight. Thus Maria allowed herself to be brought away into a car. Outside, the
police, including a Gurkha contingent,
held back a crowd of several hundred.
The car delivered Maria to the Roman Catholic Convent of the Good Shepherd in Thomson Road. Mrs. Hertogh stayed at another address for a few days, from where she visited Maria daily, before moving in to the convent herself. According to an official of the Netherlands Consulate-General, such arrangement was because of "greater convenience" while the stay of execution pending appeal was in effect. But it proved to be the falsest step, the spark that lit the fuse of the subsequent riots.
First and foremost, the press was not barred from entering the convent grounds. Nor were they
restricted in any way in their approach to the incident, which had been nothing shy of sensational. On 5 December, the Singapore Standard published on its front page a photograph of
Maria standing holding hands with the Reverend Mother. There were several more pictures on
page 2, under the headline: Bertha knelt before Virgin Mary Statue. The Malay press retorted.

The Utusan Melayu published on 7 December three photographs of Maria weeping and being comforted by a nun, as well as articles about Maria's "lonely and miserable" life in the convent.
These pictures, whether presenting Maria as happy or sad, mostly showed Maria surrounded by symbols of Christian faith. The
Muslims, who looked upon Maria as one of their own, were deeply offended by such pictures, not to mention the sensational reports, some of which explicitly labelled the case as a religious issue between Islam and Christianity.
On 9 December, an organization calling itself the Nadra Action Committee was formally constituted under the leadership of
Karim Ghani, a Muslim political activist from Rangoon.

This extreme organization solicited support among local Muslims by distributing free copies of its newspaper, the Dawn (not the Dawn, an English paper published in Pakistan). Karim Ghani had also made an open speech at the Sultan Mosque on 8 December in which he mentioned jihad as a final resort.
In the light of these potent signs of a great disturbance, the
Criminal Investigation Department

sent a memo to the Colonial Secretary suggesting moving Maria back to York Hill to avoid further inciting Muslim anger. The Secretary did not agree on grounds that he had received no such representations from Muslim leaders, nor did he have the authority to remove Maria without further court orders - weak excuses since Maria could be relocated with her mother's consent. Nonetheless, it cannot be said definitively that moving Maria out of the convent at such a late stage could have averted the riots.

There were even more widespread reports in regional and newspapers around the world after the VERDICT was delivered.
Activists and nationalists in Singapore, Malaya and Burma took advantage of the situation in the hope of further weakening the colonial government as they were also fighting for independence for their respective countries.
The FINAL Hearing of the Court to consider the legal appeal by Mansor Adabi and Che Aminah's side was scheduled for December 11 1950.
It was to be a day Singaporeans and Singapore would never forget!

No comments: