An injustice to deny citizenship to Johor-born woman, say groups

Tan Soo Yin (right) with her lawyer Jasmine Wong outside the High Court on Thursday.

PETALING JAYA: A stateless Malaysian woman has suffered a “regrettable injustice of human rights” from a court decision rejecting her application for citizenship, human rights groups say.

Ranee Sreedharan, a lawyer who represents Development of Human Resources for Rural Areas, said the Federal Constitution should be interpreted liberally and the courts also had a duty to uphold fundamental human rights through its decisions.

Maalini Ramalo, director of social protection of DHRRA Malaysia, said “the system continues to punish individuals who are abandoned and have no control over how they were born or left behind”.

On Thursday, the High Court dismissed an application for citizenship by Johor-born Tan Soo Yin, 37, after she failed to prove that her biological parents were Malaysian citizens.

Tan said she had no knowledge about her biological parents, who had abandoned her after she was born in a hospital.

Maalini said the Federal Constitution does contain safeguards to protect individuals who would otherwise be without citizenship.

She said there was a human rights obligation to deal with gaps of the law that “continue to punish the victim”. Countries around the world had progressively amended their laws to ensure the protection of foundling, abandoned or even adopted children without a nationality, she said.

Ranee said Malaysia was a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which said the best interest of a child must be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies,

Elia Bit, head of the Penan Empowerment Networking Association, urged the Home Ministry to go over laws and policies involving children who were adopted by new families.

She said there were many cases in Baram, Sarawak, that are similar to Tan’s.

“One of them is 26-year-old Jeffrey Nyaru, a Penan from Batu Bungan Baram, who was adopted by a Penan couple. His adoptive parents acquired an adoption certificate from the Marudi district office but Jeffrey still holds a temporary resident identity card,” she said.

She said the High Court’s dismissal of Tan’s case was unfair as she had been living in Malaysia for more than three decades with no criminal record.

“The saddest part is her children will also face the same fate. Our country still has no clear line in dealing with matters concerning citizenship.”

Tan told the High Court she had been holding a temporary resident identity card since she was 19. Tan’s daughter has also been denied citizenship status and a MyKad. She only has a birth certificate, while her brother has been recognised as a Malaysian citizen as he was under the care of relatives.

Pro Bono lawyer, Nurainie Haziqah, said it was “utterly frustrating” that Tan, an orphan from birth, was forced to prove the nationality of her parents. “This injustice will definitely impact more unsuccessful application of stateless cases in the future,” she said.