Azalina criticises Putrajaya over appeal of citizenship ruling

Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said is pictured at Parliament, Kuala Lumpur July 28, 2021. — Bernama pic
Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said is pictured at Parliament, Kuala Lumpur July 28, 2021. — Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 — Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said today chastised the government over its bid to appeal against the High Court decision granting automatic citizenship to children born abroad to Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses.

In her speech debating the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP), the former de facto law and parliamentary affairs minister questioned why such Malaysian mothers were treated differently from Malaysian fathers with foreign spouses.

She added that she was perplexed by the government’s move to appeal the ruling.

“Be fair to all. If the mother cannot get it, don’t give it to the fathers either. Why is it that the mothers are denied (the automatic citizenship right for their children) while it is okay for the fathers?

“Up to the government to answer. To the others, don’t get mad. I am just asking,” Azalina said.

“Speaker, until today, I do not understand why the government still wants to appeal, in the issue concerning citizenship recently, whereby the Johor Sultan himself supported to have the right to citizenship be conferred to mothers and children,” she said.

Azalina said she did not understand what the government would lose by allowing Malaysian mothers to have the same right as fathers in this matter.

Last week, 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 wished to amend the Federal 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.

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.

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