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Bill fails to give citizenship to existing children born to Malaysian mothers overseas

Stateless children in Malaysia - EPA/AL JAZEERA

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By N Surendran

I refer to the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2024, which was tabled in Parliament yesterday.

The main justification given by the government for the tabling of the controversial bill is to resolve the long-standing problem of Malaysian citizenship for children born to Malaysian mothers overseas.

By virtue of clause 11 of the bill, the necessary amendment has been proposed by substituting the words “of whose parents one at least” into paragraph (b) of Part II of 2nd Schedule. This would entitle children born overseas to Malaysian mothers to receive Malaysian citizenship by operation of law.

However, to our shock and surprise, by clause 12(1) of the bill, the new amendments will not affect the citizenship status of those children who were born prior to the coming into effect of the act.

The effect of this clause is that the thousands of existing children born to Malaysian mothers overseas will not receive the benefit of the new amendment. They will remain stateless as they have been all this while.

As before, they can only apply to the government for citizenship by registration, which is subject to the absolute discretion of the home minister. It was the failure or refusal of the Ministry of Home Affairs to grant citizenship to them all this while that led to the long campaign to amend Section 1(b).

Now, they will be back to square one, after having been given false hope that their citizenship woes would be resolved by constitutional amendment.

We strongly urge the government to remove the restriction in clause 12(1) from the bill to enable all those born to Malaysian mothers overseas who are currently stateless to receive citizenship.

READ MORE:  Saifuddin is wrong, the stateless face huge difficulties in applying for citizenship

To maintain clause 12(1) in the bill would be a betrayal of the repeated promises of government leaders, including the prime minister, that their citizenship problems would be resolved by amendments to the Constitution. – Lawyers for Liberty

N Surendran is an adviser to Lawyers for Liberty

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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27 Mar 2024 11.41pm

Shock n surprise for sure.. why giving false hopes

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