KOTA KINABALU: The move to amend the Federal Constitution so children born overseas to Malaysian mothers can gain automatic citizenship is an equal rights victory, says Datuk Christina Liew (pic).
The Sabah Pakatan Harapan Chairman said the move was welcome and should be lauded, since Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses have been crying out for justice for decades, so their children born abroad could be granted automatic citizenship.
"We applaud this resolution to a long-standing citizenship issue which has caused a great deal of anxiety and stress to the mothers concerned,” she said in a statement on Sunday (Feb 19).
"It takes the unity government under the leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to reach this monumental decision,” said Liew, who is also state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister.
She said this was an advancement for the principle of gender equality which stipulates that all persons were equal before the law, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
She said as far back as 2000, women's groups in the country, including the Confederation of Sabah and Sarawak Federations of Chinese Women's Associations, had urged the government to abolish discriminatory laws against women.
Liew was honorary president of the confederation at the time.
"In 2020, I also called on the government to repeal laws that were unfair to Malaysian women after a few cases in Sabah were brought to my attention," she said.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and Law and Institutional Reform Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said had announced in a joint statement on Saturday (Feb 18) that the necessary Constitutional amendments would be presented to the Cabinet and then to the Dewan Rakyat.
According to them, the proposed amendment to the Federal Constitution in this matter is to replace the word "father" in Part I and Part II of the Second Schedule with the words "at least one of the parents" to enable Malaysian mothers to receive their just rights according to the Federal Constitution.
Liew advised affected Malaysian women in Sabah to keep abreast of the latest developments as the Federal Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2023 is next expected to be tabled in the current Parliament meeting after fulfilling legal requirements, as stated by Saifuddin and Azalina.
"Mothers concerned must quickly follow up on their children's applications once the Amendment Bill has been tabled and passed in the Dewan Rakyat," she said.
She said children entangled in this matter will then be able to enjoy the same access to education and healthcare as other Malaysians.