Make citizenship amendments retroactive to include kids born to M'sian mums overseas previously, says NGO


KUALA LUMPUR: The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2024 must be amended further to be retroactive or it will be meaningless for the current batch of children born overseas to Malaysian mothers who are still non-citizens, says Family Frontiers Malaysia.

At a press conference here Wednesday (June 19), the NGO, representing mothers fighting for equal citizenship for their children, said the government had also not explained why citizenship applications for such children were denied.

According to Family Frontiers’ Chee Yoke Leng, the current Bill of Amendments on the citizenship law would only be effective on the generation born after the laws were passed.

“Malaysia signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw), a UN convention, 30 years ago.

"However, it was only in 2021 that a High Court ruled that the word 'father' in the Second Schedule of the Constitution must mean and include mothers, after an application by Family Frontiers.

“By operation of law, if you are born outside of Malaysia, you are automatically a Malaysian but interpretation of the word 'father' has led to gender discrimination,” said Chee.

Suriani Kempe, whose child had been denied citizenship for being born overseas despite being born to a Malaysian mother, said that the pending Citizenship Amendment Bill, which has gone through the First Reading in the last session of parliament, if passed will not be retroactive.

“Those born before the laws are enacted will therefore still remain non-citizens.

“The Home Minister has approved many cases of children born overseas to Malaysian mothers, but there are those who have been denied.

"What are the reasons for these rejections? Of the 40 rejected applications recorded by Family Frontiers, we found that 34 were for overseas residents,” Chee said.

Affected mother Sharmila Unnikrishnan, 49, currently attached to the United Nations in Nairobi, Kenya, said that her two children’s applications were rejected and was merely told that it was following the Federal Constitution.

“The officers at the Home Ministry told me, if you are not happy, apply again. We have no idea why they were rejected and where we have gone wrong.

"Now, I am currently on the third application for my daughter and a second application for my son. This has made it difficult when we travel together as a family and there seems to be no recourse should anything happen,” said Sharmila, who is here on a short break.

Christine Al-Jammal, a Malaysian who used to work as a nurse in Saudi Arabia and is married to a Jordanian, said that she had returned to the country for good with her family, but one child is a foreigner and another is a Malaysian.

“It makes me feel guilty for not returning to give birth to my eldest in Malaysia. The Malaysian embassy in Jordan had told us before birth that there would not be any problems. It was my first pregnancy and it was high risk and we did not want to take any chances.

"But now, I think if I knew I was going to go through all this for the citizenship of my eldest child who just turned seven, I would have flown back despite my high-risk pregnancy,” said a teary Christine.

Amelia Tai said that she had had to stay put in the United Kingdom as her children’s applications were rejected once again.

“I am a Malaysian who wants my children to be Malaysian as well. Just because I am a woman, my children cannot get their Malaysian citizenship. Is this fair to the children?” asked Tai.

In March, the amendments to the Federal Constitution relating to several provisions on citizenship were tabled for the first reading at the Dewan Rakyat sitting by Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.

The Bill will accord equal rights to a child born overseas to Malaysian mothers. Prior to the amendment, a child born overseas would only acquire citizenship automatically if the father is a citizen of Malaysia.

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 Family Frontiers , Women , Overseas , Amendment , Laws

   

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