KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 22 — The Home Ministry said it applied for a stay of execution order on a ruling recognising children born to Malaysian mothers and foreign fathers as Malaysian citizens, as it wishes to amend the Constitution over the matter.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said his ministry will be consulting the Conference of Rulers over the amendment, claiming this plan is a “middle path” to seek a solution for the decades-old problem.
“After receiving differing judgments in two cases, the Home Ministry plans to bring up this matter to obtain a new government policy to amend the Federal Constitution, to make it easy for mothers who have their children overseas, despite marrying foreigners.
“At the same time, this matter needs to obtain consent from the Conference of Rulers, in line with Act 159(5) of the Federal Constitution,” he said during his ministerial winding-up speech in the Dewan Rakyat.
Hamzah said he is restricted by the Federal Constitution and citizenship laws under Part III of the former and 1994 regulations, and a stay is needed so the government does not commit contempt of the court or violate the Constitution.
“We appeal so that we get a longer time period and at the same time, we want to suggest that we bring the matter to the Conference of Rulers and if agreed upon, we can amend our Federal Constitution,” he said.
Just days after the High Court’s September 9 historic decision in favour of the Malaysian mothers, the Malaysian government had filed an appeal against the court ruling.
Family Frontiers, which had together with six Malaysian mothers won the lawsuit on Thursday last week, said it was “appalled” that the government had made the move to appeal the court decision.
The High Court in Kuala Lumpur had affirmed Malaysian women’s equal rights under the Federal Constitution — which only Malaysian men have been enjoying for decades — to confer citizenship automatically on their children born overseas to foreign spouses.
Currently, children born outside of Malaysia are entitled to Malaysian citizenship under the provisions of the Federal Constitution’s Article 14(1)(b) read in line with Section 1(b) and Section 1(c) of Part II of the Federal Constitution’s Second Schedule.
Section 1(b) and Section 1(c) currently state that the child’s “father” has to be a Malaysian citizen.
The High Court judge Datuk Akhtar Tahir on September 9 ruled that the word “father” must be read to include “mother” and that their children are entitled to citizenship by operation of law, and that the citizenship right provisions (Article 14(1)(b), Section 1(b), Section 1(c)) have to be read in harmony with the Federal Constitution’s Article 8(2) which prohibits gender discrimination.
Currently, Malaysian mothers who are married to foreigners have to apply for their children born abroad to have Malaysian citizenship, a process that is said to typically take years before the Malaysian government responds and with no guarantee that the child would become a citizen as the government can reject such applications.
In comparison, Malaysian fathers would be able to confer their citizenship to children who are born abroad, which means they are automatically recognised as citizens and do not have to go through the same arduous and lengthy process of applying for citizenship.