KUALA LUMPUR, July 10 — Regressive constitutional amendments that would only lead to a further exacerbation of the issue of statelessness among children should be done away with completely, a member of the Negri Sembilan royal family said today.
Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin Tuanku Muhriz said the proposed amendments — specifically the removal of Section 1(e) of Part II in the Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution — was an example of how policies were not well thought out.
“My colleagues and I advocating for children’s and refugee rights are pleased with the promised amendment to allow citizenship for children born overseas to Malaysian mothers married to non-Malaysian fathers.
“However, we were profoundly disappointed by other amendments that could severely exacerbate the issue of statelessness among children.
“After pressure from civil society, former ministers and now even among the Cabinet, I am hopeful that this appalling proposal is eradicated so that Malaysia can uphold its responsibilities according to the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child which the Government ratified in 1995,” he said in his speech at the International Malaysia Law Conference 2023 here.
On June 23, the Home Ministry in a briefing told civil society organisations of its plans to make changes to citizenship rules in the Federal Constitution, including to finally enable Malaysian mothers to pass on their citizenship to their overseas-born children, just as Malaysian fathers are already able to do.
But the civil society groups immediately expressed concern over the government’s other proposed amendments to the Federal Constitution to remove existing constitutional protections that were meant to prevent children from becoming stateless.
One of the biggest proposed amendments is the removal of Section 1(e) in Part II of the Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution. Section 1(e) has been the safeguard against statelessness since Malaya was formed.
The aforementioned provision has benefited various categories of impacted children such as children separated from parents with no proof of parentage, children born out of wedlock, adopted children, and children who were born to stateless parents.
Under Section 1(e), every person born within Malaysia and who is not born a citizen of any country is entitled to be a Malaysian citizen because of the law. In other words, Section 1(e) states they have the right to be Malaysians.
Rights groups said amendments that deny deserving children the right to citizenship will further exacerbate the issue of statelessness in the country as the number of stateless people, especially children, in Malaysia has risen due to a cycle of deprivation and vulnerability over the years.