Govt questioned over proposed constitutional amendments on citizenship

KUALA LUMPUR: A former deputy minister questioned whether the proposed amendments to the citizenship law were due to a high incidence of statelessness in Sarawak and Sabah.

Ramkarpal Singh (PH-Bukit Gelugor), the former de facto law minister, urged the government not to go ahead with proposed constitutional amendments which would deprive foundlings of the automatic right to apply for citizenship.

"It was said that there are numerous rumours and talks on the matter that there is likely a high number of foundlings in Sarawak and Sabah. That is why the government needs amendments to the law," he said when debating the motion of thanks on the Royal Address in Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday (March 5).

He said that national security was also raised as a justification for the proposed amendments.

"Has the government carried out an appropriate study to determine if the amendments would overcome the problem of foundlings in these states and will it resolve the issue?" he said, adding that the minister responsible should respond to his questions.

During Dewan Rakyat proceedings in November last year, Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail faced pushback from several quarters when announcing that the proposed amendments would be tabled soon.

Although the amendments would resolve the issue of citizenship regarding children born to Malaysian mothers abroad, civil rights groups noted that the changes would create a larger class of stateless children.

The proposed amendments will make it a requirement that there is proof that the foundlings were born in Malaysia before the citizenship application can be submitted.

DAP's Ipoh Timor MP Howard Lee had previously warned that he and several government MPs might not vote in favour of the amendments if tabled hastily.

Meanwhile, Ramkarpal described the proposed amendments as regressive and illogical.

He urged the government to defer tabling the proposed amendments pending further consideration.

On Feb 22, several matters including the proposed Police (Amendment) Bill 2023 and the Federal Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2024 regarding citizenship were discussed at the 265th meeting of the Conference of Rulers.

Last month, Saifuddin said the proposed amendments will be deliberated on by the Cabinet on March 8.

He said whether or not the Bill is tabled in this sitting in Parliament will depend on the Cabinet's decision.

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