Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) refer to news reports on 26 May that the government has filed an appeal against the Kuala Lumpur High Court decision on 18 May ordering the National Registration Department to issue a birth certificate for a five-year-old boy to reflect his citizenship status as a Malaysian.
What is the objective that the government is trying to achieve with this appeal?
The home minister has already acknowledged that statelessness is a serious national issue through his announcement in January 2023 on the setting up of a special committee to address the problem of statelessness in Malaysia.
Yet, this appeal indicates that the Pakatan Harapan-led government is not serious in addressing statelessness and, worse, continues to perpetuate the problem by prolonging the issue by filing an unmeritorious appeal to render this unfortunate child stateless for life.
What possible justification can it have for this? The DNA test has confirmed that the biological father of the child is a Malaysian citizen.
The High Court then rightfully determined that the boy was a citizen of Malaysia under Article 14(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution as the paternity of his Malaysian father is established, in accordance with the decision of the Federal Court in CCH & Anor v Pendaftar Besar bagi Kelahiran dan Kematian, Malaysia (2022).
This Federal Court decision by the chief justice herself is being blatantly ignored by the government and home minister. Instead, the PH-led government, which promised repeatedly to protect human rights, is determined to stop this young child from getting his basic right to citizenship. Without citizenship, the child’s future is bleak and dark.
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Further, there is no moral justification that can exist for the government to punish children who were born outside the institution of marriage with statelessness. This is the main grounds upon which the government wants to deny the child’s status as a Malaysian.
We remind the government that it has an international obligation under Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to have a child’s best interest as its primary obligation in all of its actions.
Being stateless is not something trivial; it hampers an individual’s rights to education, healthcare and their overall livelihood. There is no future to be had for those who are stateless, which is why it is of utmost importance that statelessness is eradicated.
By filing this appeal, the government is in direct violation of its international obligations under the UNCRC. It is also an immensely heartless act which victimises a mere child.
Thus, we strongly urge the government to withdraw its appeal against the decision of the High Court in this case and to respect the principles of law already laid down by the Federal Court. The laws on citizenship must be expanded, and not regressed to the detriment of the children of our country, who are blameless in the circumstances of their birth. – LFL
Zaid Malek is the director of Lawyers for Liberty