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Saifuddin’s excuse for removal of automatic citizenship for children of PRs reveals historical ignorance

Stateless children in Malaysia - EPA/AL JAZEERA

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By N Surendran

I refer to the statement by Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail in Parliament on 21 March in which he confirmed that the government will remove automatic citizenship of children born to permanent residents.

He claimed the provision was legislated in 1963 to cater for Singaporeans entering Malaysia after the separation of the two countries and who marry and have children here.

This provision is Section 1(a) of Part 2 of 2nd Schedule of the Constitution, which provides that if either parent is a permanent resident, their child born in Malaysia will automatically qualify to be a Malaysian citizen.

Saifuddin’s reasoning for removing the permanent residents’ clause in Section 1(a) is fundamentally flawed, as it is based on incorrect facts and a failure to grasp its historical origins.

First, Singapore left Malaysia in 1965 – and not 1963, as implied by Saifuddin. The permanent residents’ children clause came into existence in 1963 through the Malaysia Act 1963. It was not inserted into the Constitution in 1965 to deal with fallout from the separation of the two countries, as alleged by Saifuddin. This is a basic fact. How could the minister get it wrong?

The real purpose of the clause to cover permanent residents’ children is to is to prevent the children of a permanent resident from becoming stateless. It is not to give citizenship to children of Singaporean red identity card holders, as stated in the minster’s reply in Parliament.

Also, skilled workers needed for critical sectors will not settle in Malaysia if their children do not have citizenship.

READ MORE:  Halt and review regressive citizenship law amendments

In short, Malaysia will lose out in both these ways if the clause for children of permanent residents is removed.

Saifuddin’s attempt to justify this amendment by claiming that the child of a Malaysian permanent resident in Australia will also not get automatic citizenship is also completely wrong. In fact, by virtues of Section 12 of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, every child of a permanent resident is automatically a citizen.

These serious factual and historical errors raise the question whether the government is in full grasp of key facts related to the controversial citizenship amendments or whether they comprehend the full ramifications of the amendments if passed. They seem clueless and daily produce fresh factually wrong justifications.

The only right thing for the government to do now, in the interest of the nation, is to withdraw these proposed amendments and proceed only with the change to cover children born to overseas mothers. – Lawyers for Liberty

N Surendran is the 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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Orang Ulu
Orang Ulu
25 Mar 2024 3.02pm

In history the error was committed by UMNO.

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