Hearing on stateless children postponed for 5th time

Reuters pic.

PUTRAJAYA: The much anticipated hearing on the legal position of stateless children in Malaysia before a nine-member Federal Court bench was postponed today for the fifth time since March.

Federal counsel Suzana Atan, who applied for the adjournment, told the panel led by Chief Justice Richard Malanjum that she had received instructions from Attorney-General (AG) Tommy Thomas to fix another date.

“The AG needs time to give his views on the cases,” she said.

She added that Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had been on medical leave and had just returned to work.

“We have not obtained any instructions from him,” she said, adding that the government needed another six weeks to make a decision.

Malanjum said he was concerned about any further adjournments as the cases involved the welfare of children.

Counsel Cyrus Das, who represents two of the parties, said the children were between eight and 18 years of age and lacked the necessary documentation due to their statelessness.

“They do not have identification cards and cannot open bank accounts or obtain driving licences,” he said.

Malanjum then fixed the final hearing date on Oct 25, saying: “Rain or shine, the case will go on.”

The bench also allowed the counsels’ applications for the media to be prohibited from identifying the children, their parents or adoptive parents.

On Sept 11 last year, the Federal Court allowed leave applications by three sets of parents who wanted their applications to be heard on the position of stateless children.

The fundamental question before the apex court was whether blood or lineage was a requirement under the Federal Constitution in determining the citizenship of a child.

In all three cases, the Court of Appeal rejected the citizenship applications because the mother was a foreigner even though the children were born in Malaysia.

In the fourth case, a Court of Appeal bench ordered the government to issue citizenship to a child born to a Malaysian father and a mother from Papua New Guinea.

However, the government is appealing against that decision.

In the fifth case, the High Court in Shah Alam referred the matter straight to the Federal Court as constitutional issues were involved.

In this case, the biological parents were unknown but the child was adopted by Malaysian citizens.

The National Registration Department refused to grant citizenship as the birth certificate stated that the child was not Malaysian.

Lawyers Gopal Sri Ram and Ranee Sreedharan are appearing for another three parents while Shamsul Bolhassan assisted Suzana.