Hannah Yeoh is wrong, citizenship bill brings zero benefit to Malaysian mothers with children born overseas

Stateless children in Malaysia - EPA/AL JAZEERA

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Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) refers to minister Hannah Yeoh’s statement [in an interview published on 9 April] in which she defended the controversial citizenship bill and said she was “pleased” the government had “managed to table the bill” and it would give Malaysian mothers with children born overseas the right to confer citizenship upon them.

Yeoh’s comments on the controversial citizenship bill are grossly misleading, dishonest and completely ignores the serious concerns about the bill raised by civil society, human rights lawyers, the Bar Council, Suhakam, prominent individuals and even some Pakatan Harapan MPs.

First, the citizenship bill failed to be debated and passed by Parliament in the recent session, despite all the promises made by “unity government” leaders that the plight of the Malaysian mothers would be resolved.

In fact, what happened was that the home minister announced the bill was ready to be debated just minutes before the parliamentary sitting was adjourned.

This was just a charade, and a clear abuse of the standing orders of the House of Representatives. As the government controls the business of the house, it could easily have had the bill debated and passed.

In the end, nothing was accomplished, and no relief given to the thousands of Malaysian mothers who were waiting desperately for the law to be passed.

Second, the thousands upon thousands of stateless children born overseas to Malaysian mothers will receive no benefit whatsoever from this bill, contrary to what was claimed by Hannah Yeoh. By virtue of clause 12(1), only children born after the passing of the amendments will receive citizenship. Those existing thousands of children will be left in the lurch.

READ MORE:  Halt and review regressive citizenship law amendments

This is cruel and ridiculous because the government claimed from the beginning it was to help these children that they are amending the Constitution. As a result, the Malaysian mothers have been left hopeless and devastated by this deliberate exclusion of their children from the ambit of the bill.

It is a great disappointment that Yeoh and her colleagues persist in painting a false and positive picture of the citizenship bill, which bears no connection with the reality.

PH had repeatedly promised when in opposition to resolve the terrible problem of statelessness in Malaysia. Now in power, they are misleading and offering excuses.

LFL strongly urges the government to immediately announce that the citizenship bill will be amended to include existing children born overseas to Malaysian mothers. To do otherwise would be a betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of thousands of Malaysian mothers and their innocent children. – LFL

Zaid Malek is the 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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Single father
Single father
1 May 2024 10.46am

I’m a single father not married but had a kid with a foreigner,she disappeared couldn’t find her to ask her to get our child’s birth cert… I’ve been trying to get a birth cert for the past 10years now with idiotic answers like nama bapa -tidak diketahui, born in malaysia but no citizenship & FATHER’S have no say,rights over his own child worst still if it’s a daughter….WHERE IS THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT ON THIS??? Malaysia have sign with the UN & Malaysia must obey their rules and regulations such as HUMAN RIGHTS FOR SINGLE FATHER’S ETC…why are these minister’s whom we elected are twisting n turning matter’s….these innocent children are stateless,undocumented etc.