Plaintiffs urge govt not to appeal High Court's landmark citizenship decision

PETALING JAYA: The government has been urged not to appeal a landmark judgement where the High Court ruled that Malaysian women can confer citizenship to their children born overseas.

The six plaintiffs said the decision was momentous for the country and acknowledged the suffering that many Malaysian mothers worldwide have endured for many decades.

This, they said, included unequal access to healthcare and education in Malaysia, disrupting family units, and multiple tedious and costly immigration runs to renew the children’s visas.

"This judgement has come as a ray of hope amidst challenging times," they said in an open letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Sunday (Sept 12).

The Kuala Lumpur High Court had, on Thursday (Sept 9), ruled that Malaysian mothers with a foreign spouse can now automatically pass on their citizenship to their children born outside Malaysia.

The Court ruled that Article 4(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution, and the Second Schedule, Part II, Section 1(b), pertaining to citizenship rights, must be read in harmony with Article 8(2), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.

High Court judge Akhtar Tahir ruled the word "father" must therefore be read to include mothers, and that their children are entitled to citizenship by operation of law.

The group of mothers urged Ismail Sabri not to appeal the judgment in the spirit of “Keluarga Malaysia”, as this would allow National Registration Department (NRD) offices and Malaysian embassies to allow for expedited registration of Malaysian identification documents for their children.

They also were grateful that many politicians including de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Datuk Seri Rina Harun lauded the decision, saying that this showed the political coalition was attuned to the people’s sufferings and recognised necessary change.

The Children’s Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), Prof Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal applauded the High Court’s decision, saying that it has a very important implication to the progress of the rights of children and sets a precedent that upholds the principles of equality aligned with international conventions

She said that uncertainties related to the legal status of a child born overseas to a Malaysian mother married to a foreigner leads to immediate and long-term effects throughout his or her life.

“The decision has clearly paved the way for a brighter and fairer future for all children born to a Malaysian parent married to a non-Malaysian, irrespective of gender,” she said in a statement on Sunday.

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