PETALING JAYA: A group of activists and civil society organisations has urged the government not to impose any conditions for Malaysian mothers to confer citizenship on their children born overseas.
They said the right to citizenship should not exempt children born out of wedlock to Malaysian fathers, those adopted by Malaysian parents, abandoned children, and undocumented children who come from generations of undocumented families or communities.
‘(This) should not be a condition attached to granting Malaysian mothers the right to confer citizenship on their overseas-born children,” the group, comprising 49 NGOs and 67 activists, said in a statement.
The group expressed disappointment over the lack of clarity on what part of the Federal Constitution would be amended in relation to the matter.
“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.
“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,” the group said.
It urged the home ministry to fully disclose the extent and implications of the proposed constitutional amendments.
The draft bill to amend the citizenship laws should be based on a transparent consultation process with all stakeholders, it added.
Currently, children born overseas to Malaysian women are not entitled to automatic citizenship as the constitution only provides for citizenship through the fathers.
Last August, the appellate court ruled that children born overseas to Malaysian women were not entitled to automatic citizenship as the constitution only provided for citizenship through the fathers.
In a 2-1 judgment in favour of the government, the court ruled that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers can be denied citizenship as the word “father” in Article 14(1)(b) of the constitution and its related provisions in the Second Schedule is “clear and unambiguous” and cannot be construed to include mothers.
The ruling overturned a September 2021 decision by the Kuala Lumpur High Court that the government must grant citizenship to children born abroad to Malaysian mothers as the word “father” in the Second Schedule must also mean and include mothers.
In February, the Cabinet agreed to amend the constitution to enable automatic Malaysian citizenship to children born overseas to Malaysian mothers.
Home minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail told the Dewan Rakyat last week that Putrajaya hoped to present the proposed constitutional amendments to the Conference of Rulers on July 12.