Amend Constitution to give mothers same rights as fathers in citizenship issue, says senator

SIBU: The Federal Constitution needs to be amended to allow Malaysian women to confer citizenship to their children born overseas, says Senator Robert Lau Hui Yew.

The Bawang Assan SUPP chairman said that an amendment to the Federal Constitution needs to be done by inserting words to include "mother" so that Malaysian women are afforded the same right as Malaysian men.

"I fully support the call for Part II, Section 1 (b) and (c) of the First Schedule (Article 14 (1) of the Federal Constitution to be amended by inserting words to include 'mother'.

"These wordings in the Constitution reflect the era where men were given the higher status in the family unit. Women were not equal to men in many aspects of their lives ranging from the access to education and work, the right to vote and even on pay," he said in a statement on Saturday (Aug 6).

In line with this, he urged the Prime Minister and the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Parliament and law, to table such an amendment in the Parliament, adding that it was time for such discriminatory relics to be changed.

"This task falls squarely on the Parliament to amend the Constitution. Justice Kamaludin (has also) said only Parliament can rewrite the Constitution, not the court," said Lau who is a lawyer by profession.

The majority in the Court of Appeal, delivered by Justice Kamaludin, is of the opinion that the word in the Constitution, “father”, was clear and unambiguous and cannot be construed to include “mother”. The dissenting judgment of Justice Nantha, however, said there was a plain and apparent conflict between Article 8(2) and Article 14 (1). Art 8(2) prohibits discrimination against citizens on the ground of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender in any law.

Lau said although the Court of Appeal decision came as a disappointment, it was not the end of the road as the matter was being appealed at the Federal Court, the apex court in Malaysia, for a final decision.

"It is heartening to read, even though as a consolation, in the majority decision, and supported by Justice Nantha, the judges made it clear that the status quo should be maintained for the six applicants in the suit pending disposal of the Federal Court decision.

"It went further to direct the National Registration Department not to reject those applications that were not part of this lawsuit but to suspend and freeze them pending the outcome of the appeal to the Federal Court," he added.

Lau said the decisions of both the majority and the dissenting judges, and especially the orders not to reject but freeze all applications, showed how the court and the country's legal system carry out their duties and responsibilities within the ambit of the Constitution.

"This case is a good testimony on the process of the judiciary and the critical role it plays. It also reflects the doctrine of the separation of powers among and the respective roles played by each of the three arms of our system of government (the judiciary, the legislature and the executive)," he concluded.

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