Suit filed by mothers of overseas-born children, NGO to be heard on June 30

KUALA LUMPUR: A suit filed by an NGO and six mothers seeking for their overseas-born children to be given citizenship will be heard at the High Court on June 30.

This follows a decision by Justice Akhtar Tahir dismissing the government's application to strike out the suit.

In his decision, Justice Akhtar ruled that the main lawsuit was not frivolous, vexatious or an abuse of court process.

He added that there is apparent discrimination against the father and mother of a child born outside of the Federation and said that there is no justification for such a discrimination.

"The non-justification becomes even more clear, even more glaring if you were to look at the other provisions in the same article of citizenship (in the Federal Constitution)," said Justice Akhtar on Thursday (May 6).

"This is an issue that cannot be said as frivolous. This is an important issue, the justification for such a discrimination must be informed to the parties including the first plaintiff and the other plaintiffs," he added.

Justice Akhtar then said that he is disallowing the government's application to strike out the lawsuit.

The court also said that the onus to show justification lies on the defendant (the government).

"When I say justification, it is not just illusory justification. It must be supported by facts and figures," he added.

On the issue of locus standi, the judge found the plaintiffs had sufficient grounds to proceed with the matter before the court.

The court then fixed May 27 for the defendant to file in their affidavits and the plaintiff has two weeks from then to reply to the affidavit.

The hearing was set for 10am on June 30 in open court for oral submissions from both parties.

There was no order as to costs.

Lawyer Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar, who represented the plaintiffs, told reporters that the court also allowed them to add in two more defendants to the lawsuit; the Home Minister and National Registration Department's director-general.

"This is because we want them (the two new defendants) to be directly accountable for any decision that might be made.

"The important thing is that the court has directed the government to provide the justification by way of affidavit. We will have our chance to reply," Dr Gurdial said.

The suit initially named only the Malaysian Government as the sole defendant.

It was filed by the Association of Family Support & Welfare Selangor & Kuala Lumpur (Family Frontiers) president Suriani Kempe and the six Malaysian women on Dec 18, last year.

They are seeking six specific court orders including a declaration that Section 1(b) and Section 1(c) be read harmoniously with Article 8(2) to include Malaysian mothers as a condition for children born abroad to be given automatic Malaysian citizenship.

The group is also seeking, among others, a court order for all relevant government agencies including the National Registration Department, the Immigration Department and Malaysian embassies to issue citizenship documents (including passports and identity cards) to children born abroad to Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses.

Senior Federal Counsel Mazlifah Ayob appeared for the defendant during the proceeding.

When met after the proceedings, Suriani, who is the first plaintiff in her capacity as the president and office bearer of Family Frontiers, said the society was pleased with the decision by the court that allowed for a full hearing proper.

"We look forward to the court hearing the merits of this case," she said.

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