‘Sympathy is cheap’: DAP MP mocks home minister for barring citizenship of kids born to Malaysian mums abroad

In her speech debating the 12th Malaysia Plan, the Kulai MP said that Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin’s expression of sympathy in Parliament last week on the ordeal faced by such mothers is ‘cheap’, without the political will to initiate the much-needed solution. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
In her speech debating the 12th Malaysia Plan, the Kulai MP said that Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin’s expression of sympathy in Parliament last week on the ordeal faced by such mothers is ‘cheap’, without the political will to initiate the much-needed solution. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 — Former deputy education minister Teo Nie Ching today criticised 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, the Kulai MP said that Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin’s expression of sympathy in Parliament last week on the ordeal faced by such mothers is “cheap”, without the political will to initiate the much-needed solution.

Teo expressed her disappointment with the government’s decision to appeal and Hamzah’s promise of efforts to pave for legal amendments on the issue, lamenting that it is simply taking too much time to address the prolonged miseries of many mothers.

“The home minister himself said that he deeply sympathises with the situation faced by these mothers. I want to say it here, sympathy is cheap if he does not have the courage to approve all such applications under powers vested in Article 15(a),” she said.

Article 15(a) provides special power for the federal government to register children as citizens.

“So I want to ask that as a minister who said himself, that he sympathises with these mothers plight, what is he going to do now? Is he going to ask these mothers and children to wait longer? Word is cheap, sympathy is cheap,” she said, adding that many MPs have also urged the government to halt its appeal.

Teo said that between 2013 and 2018, the Home Ministry had rejected 7,315 applications for children to get citizenship, under Section 15 (2).

Article 15(2) allows for the federal government to confer citizenship to anyone under the age of 21 who at least has one parent who is a Malaysian citizen (or was at death), upon application made to the federal government by his or her parent or guardian.

“At the same time, 4,959 applications are still being processed. Only 142 applications have been approved. So I want to ask if the government now continues its appeal in the Court of Appeal and at the same time is working to amend the Federal Constitution, how long more must the 8,674 applicants wait? How many months or years more do they have to wait?” she asked.

Teo also called on the government to immediately approve all such applications and not give excuses.

At the same time, she said the ministry must also look into issues of Malaysian men not registering their marriages to foreigners, whose children also struggle to obtain automatic citizenship, despite being born in Malaysia.

She said that between 2018 and 2020, of the 6,489 applications for citizenship under Article 15(a) for the aforementioned situation, only 2,969 citizenship certificates were issued.

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 wishes to amend the Constitution over the matter.

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.

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