KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 7 — Former Women, Family and Community Development Minister, Tan Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil today expressed her dismay with the Appeals Court decision, following a majority verdict that overseas-born children of Malaysian mothers cannot automatically be Malaysian citizens, and called for a legal amendment in Parliament.
In a statement today, Shahrizat said that the Court of Appeal's decision reinforcing that Malaysian women cannot confer citizenship is devastating for Malaysian women.
"My heart aches for my Malaysian sisters and the pain they have to endure. I stand in solidarity with all Malaysian women and mothers in their efforts as they pursue this case at the Federal Court. Don’t give up the good fight. I also call on our leaders to demonstrate the political will to amend the Federal Constitution.
"When I was Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, we at the ministry ensured the amendment of Article 8(2) to include gender in 2001 because we believed in the inherent equality of Malaysian men and women. It is time to expedite an amendment that will once and for all affirm this truth and make it a reality," she added.
Datuk Seri Kamaludin Md Said, who chaired the panel in delivering the ruling, was one of the judges who gave the majority decision. Datuk Azizah Nawawi similarly gave the same decision. Datuk S. Nantha Balan was the only judge on the panel who disagreed, pointing out that Malaysia's citizenship laws discriminated against Malaysian women by not allowing them to pass on citizenship to their children born overseas.
In this case, the Malaysian government had appealed against the High Court's September 9, 2021 decision, which recognised that Malaysia’s citizenship laws discriminated against women and which had ruled that Malaysian mothers whose children are born overseas should also be entitled to Malaysian citizenship.
The High Court had ruled in favour of the six Malaysian mothers on September 9, 2021, and ordered the authorities to issue citizenship documents to the overseas-born children of the six applicants and others caught in similar circumstances.
While waiting for the Court of Appeal to decide on the appeal, the six Malaysian mothers who filed the suit managed to obtain citizenship documents from the National Registration Department (NRD) for their overseas-born children.
This was because the High Court and Court of Appeal refused to allow the government to defer issuing the citizenship papers while waiting for the appeal to be decided.
After the decision on Friday, lawyer for the six Malaysian mothers, Datuk Gurdial Singh Nijar informed the Court of Appeal that his clients would be appealing to the Federal Court.
The Court of Appeal however, ruled that status quo should be maintained for the overseas-born children of the six Malaysian mothers who had obtained the Malaysian citizenship papers, until the Federal Court decides on their appeal. This means that the government should not revoke their citizenship papers while they are still appealing against the decision.