Proposals to amend citizenship laws in Malaysia: Open letter to cabinet

GERALT/PIXABAY

We, the undersigned civil society irganisations, are writing with regard to ongoing deliberations within government to amend Part III of the Federal Constitution and its related schedules.

We welcome the government’s efforts to address longstanding issues relating to the citizenship of children born abroad to Malaysian citizen mothers through amendments to include [the word] mother in Sections (1)(b) and (1)(c) of Part II of the Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution on “Citizenship by operation of law”.

Our common position on this remains consistent, and we have made our position clear to ministers and public officers of various administrations over the years.

However, any bid to include further amendments to citizenship rights under the Constitution in order to address other perceived citizenship-related issues should not be considered without first undertaking holistic and broad-based consultation with all relevant stakeholders. These other issues include attempts to restrict citizenship rights for:

  1. Children born out of wedlock to Malaysian citizen fathers
  2. Children adopted by Malaysian parent(s)
  3. Foundling and abandoned children
  4. Undocumented children from generational undocumented families or communities

It is to be noted that we have, at various times, received mixed messages from the government about the scope of the amendments they intend to propose and whether these amendments extend to the disputed issues listed above. It goes without saying that any proposal to restrict or abrogate fundamental liberties and rights, including citizenship rights, ought not to be done in a shroud of secrecy and without due consultation.

While it is understood that preliminary discussions were held with some civil society organisations, it appears that they were not informed of the entirety of the government’s proposal to amend citizenship rights. We are disappointed by this lack of clarity and transparency, given the assurances of open engagement by this new government.

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Civil society organisations and other relevant stakeholders who speak for the disenfranchised are essential to this process, and they are entitled to contribute their experience and expertise so that any amendments that are made are just, proportional and limited to what is necessary.

Malaysia remains one of 24 countries that have yet to reform the law to enable Malaysian women to obtain citizenship for their overseas-born children on an equal basis as Malaysian men. This injustice must be addressed immediately, through the proposed amendments that we have mentioned above. However, no state should offer to make such amendments only in return for curtailing or restricting the citizenship rights and entitlements of another group.

The other matters concerning citizenship rights that are listed in 1-4 above need to be addressed, but should not be a condition attached to granting Malaysian mothers the right to confer citizenship on their overseas-born children.

Malaysia remains an outlier, as one of only two countries in the world that does not grant citizenship to children born to men outside of a legal marriage; Barbados being the other.

Malaysia also has not implemented its existing provision to protect foundling children despite the landmark Federal Court decision in November 2021 in the case of CCH & Anor v Pendaftar Besar Bagi Kelahiran dan Kematian, Malaysia [2022], which upheld the rights of foundlings to citizenship under the Federal Constitution.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognise that every child has a right to a nationality, and denying this right would be a violation of their fundamental rights.

What is needed in the case of these stateless children is a clear and transparent pathway to ensure that they are able to access citizenship so that they are not still stateless in their teens and as young adults.

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We therefore call upon the government and in particular the Ministry of Home Affairs to address this situation immediately – by providing full disclosure regarding the extent and implications of the amendments to citizenship rights that it intends to propose, and by holding a holistic and transparent consultation process with all relevant stakeholders.

This is a call for transparency and an inclusive approach to ensure that the draft bill reflects the needs and aspirations of all stakeholders, upholds the principles of fairness, equality, and human rights, and promotes a just and inclusive society.

Signatories:

Organisations

  1. Aliran
  2. Anak, Sabah
  3. Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim)
  4. Association of Women Lawyers
  5. Borneo Komrad
  6. Buku Jalanan Chow Kit
  7. Cahaya Society
  8. Crib Foundation
  9. Development of Human Resources by Rural Areas (DHRRA)
  10. Empower
  11. End CSEC Network
  12. Engender Consultancy
  13. Geutanyoe Foundation
  14. Global Shepherds
  15. Justice for Sisters
  16. Kemban Kolektif
  17. Lawyer Kamek, Sarawak
  18. Lawyers for Liberty (LFL)
  19. Maju
  20. Make it Right Movement
  21. Malaysian Council for Child Welfare
  22. North South Initiative
  23. Our Journey
  24. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (Gerak)
  25. Persatuan Ahli Lembaga Pengelola Sekolah-sekolah Tamil Sembilan
  26. Persatuan Anak Istimewa Sarawak (Perais)
  27. Persatuan Kebajikan Sokongan Keluarga Selangor and Kuala Lumpur (Family Frontiers)
  28. Persatuan Pendidikan Dwira
  29. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
  30. Pertubuhan Pakatan Kemanusiaan @ The Humanity Alliance Society (T.H.A.S)
  31. Pertubuhan Solidaritas
  32. Proham
  33. Protect and Save the Children
  34. PuakPayong
  35. Pusat Komas
  36. Sabah Women’s Action-Resource Group (Sawo)
  37. Sarawak OKU Skills Development Association
  38. Sarawak Women For Women Society Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  39. Society For Equality, Respect and Trust for All Sabah (Serata)
  40. Stateless Malaysians Citizenship Movement
  41. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaham)
  42. Terabai Kenyalng Heritage Association of Sarawak (TKHAS)
  43. Tindak Malaysia
  44. Vanguards4Change
  45. Voice of the Children
  46. WDO Malaysia, Petaling Jaya branch
  47. Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)
  48. Yayasan Chow Kit
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Activists, academicians and legal fraternity

  1. Ainie Haziqah, Messrs Nurainie Haziqah & Co
  2. Aisha Zanariah Abdullah, Aisha Zanariah & Partners
  3. Andrew Khoo, Advocate & Solicitor
  4. Anita Paul
  5. Annou Xavier, Azri, Lee Swee Seng & Co
  6. Arun Boon Tiang
  7. Azira Aziz, Messrs Azira Aziz
  8. Baljinder Kaur
  9. Bimbala a/p Didar Singh
  10. Chan Yi Bing, Committee
  11. Chua Kuan Ching, Messrs Simon Siah, Chua And Chow Advocates
  12. Cikgu Rahayu, children’s activist
  13. Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS, consultant pediatrician
  14. Rodziana Mohamed Razali, USIM
  15. Dr Raveedran Marathamuthu, co-lead
  16. Ee Sau Ting
  17. Erica Lim
  18. Fan Siew Lee, committee
  19. Goh Siu Lin, Family and child rights lawyer
  20. Heah Tze Ling
  21. Ho Lai Yee
  22. Ida Nerina Hussain, mother
  23. Ishwarjeet Kaur A/P Charanjit Singh
  24. Janice Tan
  25. Jasmine Wong Kah Man, co-counsel in CCH & Anor v Pendaftar Besar Bagi Kelahiran dan Kematian, Malaysia (2021)
  26. Jeannie Low, Play Unlimited
  27. Karampreet Kaur Charanjit Singh
  28. Kasthuri Krishnan, advocate and solicitor, Kasthuri Bashir Shah & Partners
  29. Kuan Kin Chong, lead
  30. Kuan Kin Chong, SMCM
  31. Lai York May
  32. Lawrence Lim Cheng Poh
  33. Lee Cheah Cherng
  34. Lee Chee Siang
  35. Lee Chi Kah
  36. Lee Lay Wah, co-lead
  37. Lee Seng Long, committee
  38. Lee Tain Ping
  39. Lim Wee Seong, Northern Stateless
  40. Loo Ai Ling
  41. Maninderjeet Kaur Charanjit Singh
  42. Marcia Aaliyah, committee
  43. Mary Shanthi Dairiam, former UN Cedaw committee member
  44. Nadesh Zakuan
  45. Nadiratul Nurul
  46. Nurin Shariza Abdul Wahab
  47. Nurul Akashah, committee
  48. Ooi Ern Tze
  49. Premalatha Jegathesan, committee
  50. Prof Noor Aziah Mohd Awal, commissioner, Suhakam
  51. Ranee Sreedharan, Messrs Ranee Sree & Associates
  52. Rodney Raj Edward
  53. Sandra Theravam, committee
  54. Sasikala Rajendran
  55. Sharene Kam Guat Mei
  56. Sheila Rahman
  57. Tan Hooi Lim
  58. Tan Kim Hwa
  59. Teon Eg
  60. Thineswary
  61. Toh Cheng See
  62. Vanessa, committee
  63. Victor Francis, committee
  64. Voon Sok Ting
  65. Wilfred Fernandez
  66. Wong Tsai Mei
  67. Yuenwah San, disability rights advocate
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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Sllee
Sllee
28 Jun 2023 9.48am

As a parent of an adopted stateless child, what will be her future???