Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) refers to the first public response of the Prime Minister yesterday to massive criticism on the proposed constitutional amendments on citizenship.
To everyone’s surprise and shock he stated he does not think that the amendments “should be a controversial issue”.
Anwar’s claim that the amendments are not controversial despite the ongoing nationwide controversy over it, is like the proverbial ostrich sticking its head in the ground. He appears to have no inkling of the gravity and the impact of the proposed amendments on the stateless, and this is baffling and unacceptable coming from the PM.
Was Anwar not briefed on the issue by his officers or is he side-stepping the issue?
Anwar says nothing on the proposed removal of Section 1(e) of the Second Schedule Part 2 of the Constitution, which had protected the stateless, and the proposed removal of the rights to citizenship of foundlings or orphans in the current Section 19B will inevitably result in a huge increase in the problem of statelessness. These proposed amendments are unjustifiable and nothing short of heartless and cruel.
Any reasonable person can see why the amendments are bad for the country, and much public criticism has been made in the past weeks by numerous stakeholders including Suhakam, a statutory body that advises the government on human rights.
But the home minister has maintained a deafening silence, and now the prime minister feigns ignorance by alluding only to the amendments on children born overseas to Malaysian mothers. If you were to listen to Anwar, it would seem this is the only amendment being proposed.
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Pakatan Harapan, and in particular Anwar himself, had repeatedly promised to solve the problem of statelessness in our country since they were in opposition. PH cannot and must not abandon that promise now that it holds federal power. To do so is to betray the mandate that it has been entrusted with by the people for change and reform.
As Prime Minister, the buck stops with Anwar. He must withdraw immediately those parts of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ amendments which will jeopardise the lives and future of orphans, foundlings and other stateless persons. Anwar must not preside over the creation of a large new class of stateless persons in Malaysia, which is what his government’s proposed amendments will certainly do.
If the government proceeds with these amendments, Anwar will forfeit forever his claim to be progressive and a reformer.
Zaid Malek is a director of Lawyers for Liberty