Set up select committee to review three citizenship amendments before tabling, reform group urges govt

PUTRAJAYA: The federal government has been urged to subject the three remaining controversial constitutional amendments on citizenship to a full review by a Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) if it insists on pursuing them, says Project Stability and Accountability for Malaysia (Projek Sama).

In a statement jointly released with parliamentary consultant Maha Balakrishnan on Sunday (March 24), the institutional reform advocate said the amendments must not be put to a vote in the Dewan Rakyat before scrutiny by a PSSC.

"We welcome the Home Minister’s announcement on March 22 (Friday) that the amendments to grant Malaysian mothers equal rights to confer citizenship on their overseas-born children may still be tabled for the first reading on Monday (March 25).

"We also welcome his statement that two regressive amendments relating to Malaysia-born stateless children, many of whom are indigenous, abandoned or foundlings, would be dropped," the statement read.

It also said the decision was commendable and consistent with public support for granting Malaysian mothers equal rights and with the social values that reject the victimisation of children.

The statement added that, in stark contrast, there was no broad consensus for the remaining three regressive amendments proposed by the government, which will allegedly disempower the children of permanent residents, citizenship applicants aged 18 to 21, and foreign wives.

"The first two regressive amendments may leave children stateless and therefore deprived of reasonable access to health care, education and social welfare, and subject to exploitation.

"The third regressive amendment threatens to separate mothers from their children. Hence, the objections against the three amendments are well-grounded: all children are blessings, and the family institution is highly treasured, whether in Islam or other religious beliefs practised in Malaysia," the NGO said.

The statement urged the minister to lead with courage by first presenting a Green Paper to collate public feedback or at least a White Paper to justify the Government's position before bringing the amendments to Parliament.

It said Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail should, instead, present a Bill containing only the mothers’ amendment.

It said that if the Bill is rushed through the legislative stages from March 25 to 27, MPs will have very little time to fully debate it, limiting their opportunity to consult experts and stakeholders on the technical aspects and to propose amendments to the Bill.

"We call upon all MPs to fulfil their oath to ‘preserve, protect and defend’ the Federal Constitution as per the Sixth Schedule," it said.

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