Home Civil Society Voices Proposed amendments on citizenship – cruel and unjustifiable; punishes orphans, children and...

Proposed amendments on citizenship – cruel and unjustifiable; punishes orphans, children and the stateless – LFL

Stateless children in Malaysia - EPA/AL JAZEERA

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The Ministry of Home Affairs has revealed to civil society organisations the proposed amendments to the Constitution on citizenship.

Whilst Lawyers for Liberty agrees with the amendment which will allow mothers to confer citizenship on their children born overseas, we are shocked and sickened by some of the other controversial amendments being proposed by the Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional government.

These dangerous and retrograde amendments include entirely removing Section 1(e) of the Second Schedule Part 2 of the Federal Constitution, which protects persons from becoming stateless. This amendment will be the final nail into the coffin of the countless stateless persons in Malaysia. These include children and those who are born and have lived in Malaysia for generations but are without proper documentation, and are hence denied a blue MyKad (Malaysian identity card).

The government appears ignorant or unconcerned with the crucial need for Section 1(e). The original 1957 Constitution granted citizenship to anyone born on Malaysian soil under the principle of “jus soli”. However, in 1962 the Constitution was amended to include the requirement that one parent must be a citizen as well. To prevent the danger of persons being rendered stateless due to this new requirement, Section 1(e) was introduced into the Constitution.

To recklessly remove Section 1(e) now will cause untold suffering and render countless thousands into stateless persons. It is a massive step backwards, in breach of the basic human right of citizenship of persons born in this country who are not citizens of any other country. The creation of a massive new class of stateless citizens will be economically and socially damaging to the nation as the stateless persons will be marginalised and unable to contribute to the nation. It is misguided, foolish and horrendously cruel.

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To make things worse, Section 19B of the Second Schedule Part 3 is to be amended to remove the right of foundlings – abandoned children or orphans – to citizenship. Instead, foundlings will be at the mercy of the Ministry of Home Affairs over the granting of citizenship. It is clear that this amendment is to nullify the forward-thinking and progressive decision of Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat in the case CCH & Anor v Pendaftar Besar Bagi Kelahiran dan Kematian, Malaysia [2022], which recognised the rights of foundlings to citizenship and rebuked the National Registration Department.

There are several other problematic provisions including removal of the right to citizenship of children of permanent residents which can render those children stateless at birth.

To sum up, this government appears to be using the excuse of solving the issue of children born abroad to Malaysian mothers to bring in a series of dangerous, unjust and cruel amendments. These amendments will create a large new class of stateless persons. It will create a massive new problem and magnify the long unresolved issue of statelessness in Malaysia.

It is shocking and devastating that the PH political coalition, which claimed to fight for reform and stateless persons while in opposition, is now responsible as the government of the day for these unacceptable and unjustifiable amendments. These are undoubtedly the worst amendments to citizenship laws since independence. Even the old BN government, which was regularly criticised by PH for being unjust, did not stoop so low. If these amendments are passed, it will be a black day for Parliament and the nation.

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We urge the people, civil society and the opposition to strongly protest against these amendments. We urge the government to withdraw from the brink and scrap these pernicious amendments.

Zaid Malek is director of 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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28 Jun 2023 9.51am

I don’t understand what is the rationale behind these changes. Why is KDN being so cruel to children of Malaysian parents? Please reconsider

28 Jun 2023 9.24am

Why is KDN so cruel to children of Malaysian parents? what is the rationale for this?

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