Malaysia-born but stateless, three kids win citizenship at doorstep to hearing

Lawyer Datuk Cyrus Das speaks to reporters at the Palace of Justice, Putrajaya February 14, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Lawyer Datuk Cyrus Das speaks to reporters at the Palace of Justice, Putrajaya February 14, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 14 — Three stateless children born in Malaysia ended their years-long legal battle for citizenship today when the government finally recognised them as Malaysians, just before their Federal Court hearing this morning.

Datuk Cyrus Das, a lawyer for two of the children, said the home minister granted citizenships to all three boys.

“I am pleased to inform the court that at about 6pm yesterday evening, we were informed by the ministry that the honourable minister of home affairs has decided to grant citizenship to all the children in these three cases,” he told the Federal Court today.

“The citizenships are being granted under Article 15A of the Federal Constitution,” he added.

Article 15A provides for the “special powers” of the federal government to register anyone aged below 21 years’ old as a citizen in “such special circumstances as it thinks fit”.

“This morning, we were handed the requisite letters confirming the granting of citizenship, letters from the ministry duly signed by the officer in charge of Bahagian Pendaftaran Negara dan Pertubuhan,” Das added.

The three boys, who received written confirmation today of their citizenships, are currently aged 17, 16 and eight, according to their birth month.

Their names cannot be disclosed due to a court order, but the three boy were aged 14 (P*), 15 (C*), and four (L*) when their court cases first started, based on their birth years.

Das today said the cases before the Federal Court would be withdrawn, if the Home Ministry assured that it would also amend the birth certificates of the children that are currently in red colour and bearing an endorsement of “bukan warganegara” (non-citizen).

“So what we have is a letter granting citizenship, but this is a separate document, so we would like an assurance that this would be done as a matter of course,” he told the judges.

Home Ministry legal adviser Mohammad Al-Saifi Hashim then gave the assurance by confirming to the court that the “due process will go on” subsequently in line with the granting of citizenship.

The two clients represented by Das then had their cases withdrawn and struck out with no order as to costs, while the eight-year-old boy L represented by Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram also had his case withdrawn without order as to costs.

Today was scheduled to be the hearing of the three cases before a nine-man panel at the Federal Court chaired by Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop.

Other judges on the Federal Court panel today are Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zaharah Ibrahim, Federal Court judges Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed, Datuk Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin, Datuk Rohana Yusuf, Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh, Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, Tan Sri Idrus Harun and Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan.

 

It is understood that the Home Ministry had on Tuesday requested for today’s scheduled hearing to be deferred, to allow it for more time to prepare for these cases which were just referred to it by the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC).

The government and its officials was previously represented by the AGC in these three cases, but was today represented by a team headed by the home ministry’s legal adviser.

It is understood that the Court of Appeal had yesterday rejected the postponement request.

Happy outcome

L’s lawyer Latheefa Koya told Malay Mail that her clients “are of course very happy and relieved — it’s been a long gruelling waiting process.”

L, who was born out of wedlock to a Thai mother who left the country when he was six months old, was often sighted in court along with his Malaysian biological father whenever his case came up in court.

The father and son were present today as well.

L had applied for citizenship under Article 15A on April 9, 2012, before receiving on January 28, 2014 a letter of rejection dated October 11, 2013.

Latheefa confirmed that a letter dated February 13, 2019 was served today on her clients.

The letter sighted by Malay Mail showed the home ministry informing that L’s citizenship application had been approved by the government and that the earlier October 2013 rejection letter was cancelled.

Lawyer Raymond Mah, who represented the two other boys P and C, confirmed that the two separate letters dated February 13 and addressed to their parents similarly informed that their citizenship applications were approved and that the previous November 2018 rejection letters were revoked.

P and C — who were both adopted by two separate Malaysian couples and do not know who their biological parents are — had in October 2018 applied under Article 15A for citizenship.

The duo’s Article 15A applications were rejected in November 2018, without any reasons given for the rejections.

The three cases today have been closely monitored by various bodies, with lawyers holding watching briefs whenever it came up in the Federal Court.

Previously when these cases were part of a loose group of five cases of stateless individuals seeking citizenship, representatives from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Development of Human Resources for Rural Areas (DHRRA) Malaysia also attended court proceedings at the Federal Court.

Today, lawyer Goh Siu Lin held a watching brief for the Association of Women Lawyers, while lawyer Sharmila Sekaran held a watching brief on behalf of Voice of the Children, the Institute of Statelessness and Inclusion, and the Global Campaign for Gender Equality Rights.

Among others, lawyers Annou Xavier and Larissa Ann Louis also held watching briefs today for the Bar Council and the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

*Note: The actual names of these individuals were not used due to privacy reasons and on the lawyers’ request.

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