Out-going Syariah Court presidents honoured

SINGAPORE - Two Syariah Court presidents who are stepping down on Friday (June 30) were honoured at an appreciation ceremony on Thursday.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) held the ceremony for Syariah Court senior president Ustaz Mohamad Haji Rais,70, and president Zainol Abeedin Hussin, 71.

Ustaz Alfian Yasrif Kuchit, 39, will take on the appointment of Senior President on Saturday.

Praising the work of the out-going presidents, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-In-Charge Of Muslim Affairs, said at the event: "Ustaz Mohamad and Mr Zainol Abeedin have always administered Muslim family law fairly and efficiently, without fear or favour."

The Syariah Court, located along Lengkok Bahru, is an Islamic religious court that handles Muslim legal affairs according to Syariah Law, ranging from divorce to inheritance.

The responsibilities of presidents of the Syariah Court include hearing and making judgements and orders on cases applying for divorce.

The selection for the role of senior president is overseen by the incumbent senior president, on the basis of stringent criteria including the candidate's qualifications, experience and temperament.

Ustaz Mohamad, the retiring senior president, started his civil service career with the Syariah Court as a counsellor in 1985.

He rose through the ranks and became second senior president on Sept 9, 2006.

He was instrumental in strengthening social support programmes to safeguard the welfare of children impacted by their parent's divorce.

Speaking of what he was able to achieve during his time as senior president, Ustaz Mohamad said: "The children are the innocents in a divorce, and we must do all we can to protect their welfare. I am happy that during my time, we were able to put in place various support programmes for that purpose."

Mr Zainol was a district judge from 1984 to 2004. While serving at the civil court, Mr Zainol also served the community as an ad-hoc Syariah Court president and as a member of the Appeal Board.

He became a full-time president on June 28, 2007.

Chief executive of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) , Mr Abdul Razak Maricar, said: "Mr Zainol is an expert on Muslim family law as practised in Singapore. Both the Syariah Court and the Appeal Board have benefited immensely from his long and distinguished judicial career."

Ustaz Alfian, who will be the new senior president, previously served as president of the Syariah Court from 2011 to 2014, in addition to his role as deputy director at the MCCY from 2015 till now.

Ustaz Alfian received his tertiary education in Syariah and law from the International Islamic University in Kuala Lumpur, and his Master of Laws from the Columbia University in New York.

Speaking on what he wishes to achieve during his term as senior president, Ustaz Alfian said: "The court will continue to work hard to improve legal literacy so that parties coming to the court are more aware of their rights and responsibilities.

"By improving legal literacy, we hope that parties are not given the wrong information especially in this age of social media where misinformation can be spread easily."