Apex court defers hearing for five Malaysia-born stateless persons again

Gopal Sri Ram is the lead counsel for two cases involving a 20-year-old whose birth parents are unknown and was adopted by Malaysian parents, and an eight-year-old boy who was born to a Malaysian father and now-untraceable Thai mother. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Gopal Sri Ram is the lead counsel for two cases involving a 20-year-old whose birth parents are unknown and was adopted by Malaysian parents, and an eight-year-old boy who was born to a Malaysian father and now-untraceable Thai mother. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PUTRAJAYA, April 2 — The Federal Court today again rescheduled its hearing involving the cases of five stateless individuals who were born in Malaysia and want to be recognised as Malaysian citizens.

Hearing for the five cases had been previously postponed to today, but when their cases were called this morning, the Federal Court asked the lawyers to come up with a common set of questions of law for all five cases.

Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, who chaired the five-judge panel, asked the lawyers if it was possible for all five cases to be heard together due to the varying facts of some of the cases.

He noted that the individuals in the cases range from children adopted by Malaysians to children born to a foreigner mother, and also related to issues on a child’s legitimacy.

Datuk Cyrus Das, one of lawyers for two of the citizenship cases, told the court that the five cases could be decided on and dealt with in a single written judgment as the legal questions raised would apply to all five.

Zulkefli then said there would be “one hearing for all five cases”, and that all five cases will be dealt with in a “single judgment”.

The other judges on the panel today are Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed, Tan Sri Hasan Lah and Tan Sri Aziah Ali.

The new hearing dates have been fixed on May 30 and May 31.

Cyrus and lawyer Raymond Mah are the lawyers for two separate cases involving two boys: 17-year-old boy P* and 16-year-old C*, both with unknown birth parents and who were separately adopted by two Malaysian couples.

Seven legal questions were previously posed to the Federal Court in these two cases, while a question of law on citizenship requirement was previously raised for the next two cases.

Lawyer Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram is the lead counsel for two cases involving a 20-year-old whose birth parents are unknown and was adopted by Malaysian parents, and an eight-year-old boy who was born to a Malaysian father and now-untraceable Thai mother that were not legally married when he was born.

For the fifth case involving a child born to a Malaysian father and Papua New Guinean mother who later became a married couple after her birth, lawyer Ranee Sreedharan is representing the 13-year-old girl, M*, in the bid to secure her citizenship status at the country’s highest court.

M had last year won her citizenship bid in the Court of Appeal, but the government had appealed the court’s decision for her to be registered as a citizen.

Three questions of law were previously posed in M’s case for the Federal Court to hear and decide on.

Lawyers who held a watching brief today include Annou Xavier and Larissa Ann Louis for the Bar Council and the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), Goh Siu Lin for the Association of Women Lawyers and Sharmila Sekaran for Voice of the Children.

Representatives from organisations such as the Development of Human Resources for Rural Areas (DHRRA) Malaysia and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were also present in court.

*The actual names were not used due to privacy reasons.