Courts have no power to review decision on citizenship applications, hearing told

Lew Yee Hong (middle), father to a teenager seeking Malaysian citizenship, with his lawyers Annou Xavier (right) and Larrisa Ann Louis (left) at the courthouse today.

KUALA LUMPUR: Any decision made by the government to reject a citizenship application cannot be reviewed by the courts, the High Court was told today.

Senior federal counsel Maisarah Juhari, representing the home ministry, said the Federal Constitution empowered the home minister to allow or disallow citizenship applications.

She said this in a case brought against the government by a teenager who is seeking Malaysian citizenship

“Article 15A provides sole discretion to the government and minister to decide citizenship issues on grounds of ‘special circumstances’.

“Any rejection should not be treated as an end to their applications. They can always apply again to JPN,” she added, referring to the National Registration Department.

The 13 year-old girl, who was born to a Malaysian father and a Filipino mother in Perak, had applied three times for a MyKad but each time it was rejected.

The girl, through her father Lew Yee Hong, filed a judicial review in October 2016 to challenge the government’s decision to reject her citizenship application.

She is seeking a court order to compel the government to issue her a MyKad.

Judicial Commissioner Faizah Jamaludin then asked the government lawyer whether the fact that the teenager could not attend school due to her status would warrant as “a special circumstance”.

“We have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and one criterion is that the child’s right to obtain education must be respected. Is this a special circumstance that the government should consider in her case?” Faizah asked.

In response, Maisarah said Malaysia had ratified the child rights convention but for the convention to be binding, it had to be included in local laws.

The teenager’s lawyer, Annou Xavier, told the court that not all the UN conventions Malaysia had ratified had been translated into law.

“We do not have a specific law to deal with citizenship here because we have the Federal Constitution to deal with citizenship,” he said.

He added that then deputy prime minister Abdul Razak Hussein, in tabling the Article 15A constitutional amendment in 1962, had specifically stated that the “special circumstances” under the provision gave the discretion to register as citizen any child if it was in the interest of that child.

“Without citizenship, she (teenager) cannot do anything, such as open a bank account, go to university, work and maybe get married in later life,” he said.

Annou also said the courts could no longer be excluded from reviewing decisions made by the authorities as the courts, in some recent cases, had decided that ouster clauses did not serve as immunity from legal challenges.

The hearing will continue on May 2.