KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 — The Malaysian government will now be presenting its proposal on changes to citizenship rules in the Federal Constitution to the Conference of Rulers after the six state elections next month, minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said today.
Azalina, who is minister in charge of law and institutional reforms, said the proposed law changes and the public’s views would be presented to the Rulers.
“At this time, the Malaysia Madani unity government is preparing the presentation documents covering all proposed amendments from the government and also taking into account the views of Malaysians to be presented during the Conference of Rulers’ meeting, which will be held after the elections in all six states are completed,” she said in a statement today.
Earlier, in the statement, she said the Malaysian government hears and takes into account all views, proposals and feedback received from Malaysians and non-government organisations and civil society organisations, as well as the Children’s Commissioner to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) regarding the government’s eight proposed citizenship amendments.
Azalina said the eight proposed amendments are to the entire Part III of the Federal Constitution and the First Schedule and Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution, adding that these proposed changes also cover the issue of citizenship for children born abroad to Malaysian mothers.
Based on Malay Mail’s checks of the Federal Constitution, Part III covers acquisition and termination of citizenship, while the First Schedule contains the oath of loyalty to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and to Malaysia by those who are registered as Malaysian citizens or who become naturalised citizens.
The Federal Constitution’s Second Schedule contains the conditions for persons born before Malaysia’s 1963 formation to be a citizen by operation of law or automatically, and conditions for persons born after Malaysia’s formation to automatically be made citizens, as well as supplementary provisions related to citizenship.
In her statement, Azalina did not elaborate further on the eight proposed amendments to the Federal Constitution, but explained how the government arrived at these proposals.
“These eight identified proposed amendments are based on findings through analysis of studies, engagement sessions, studies comparing other countries’ laws,” she said, adding that these eight proposals were also identified through discussions in meetings by the Cabinet Committee and a Technical Committee on the Federal Constitution’s Part III amendments relating to citizenship.
Azalina said any proposed amendments to Part III of the Federal Constitution relating to citizenship matters need to have the consent of the Conference of Rulers, in line with Article 159(5) of the Federal Constitution.
Under Article 159(5), laws to amend certain Federal Constitution provisions — including Part III — “shall not be passed without the consent of the Conference of Rulers”.
Azalina said the proposed amendments to the Federal Constitution’s Part III will also require the agreement of both the Sabah governor and the Sarawak governor, based on Article 161E(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution.
Under Article 161E(2)(a), the Federal Constitution cannot be amended without the two governors’ consent if the amendment affects the right to citizenship of persons born before Malaysia’s formation by reason of their connection to Sabah and Sarawak, or if the amendment affects the equal treatment — on citizenship — for those born or living in Sabah and Sarawak and those born in Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia).
“The government gives its assurance that the rights of women or Malaysian mothers and also their children are protected. This amendment allows for gender equality to be extended to Malaysians to obtain citizenship for their children born abroad under the Federal Constitution,” Azalina said.
“The Malaysia Madani unity government under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s leadership and the whole Cabinet of Malaysia is committed to presenting fair and reasonable amendment proposals by taking into account views from all stakeholders and the people’s voice.”
Voting day for Selangor, Penang, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah, Kelantan, and Terengganu falls on August 12.
On Monday, Anwar had said the Malaysian government intends to table proposed amendments to the Federal Constitution — to enable automatic citizenship for Malaysian mothers’ overseas-born children — in the next Dewan Rakyat meeting, if the government presents its proposals to the Conference of Rulers this month for their consent.
The Dewan Rakyat’s next meeting is currently scheduled from October 9 to November 30, while the Dewan Negara is set to meet on November 27 to December 14. These will be the final parliamentary meetings of the year.
Following a briefing last month by the Home Ministry on proposed changes to citizenship rules in the Federal Constitution, civil society organisations have been urging the Malaysian government to not delay and proceed with the amendments that would enable Malaysian mothers to pass on their citizenship to their overseas-born children (which Malaysian fathers are already able to do).
But at the same time, the civil society organisations have expressed alarm and concern over the other proposed amendments which they said would remove existing protections against statelessness for individuals such as abandoned children, and have urged the government to reconsider and study these amendments first.
They have also urged the government not to combine and package these contentious amendments with the amendments for Malaysian mothers’ overseas-born children together, saying that the amendment for the Malaysian mothers can be done separately.