KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 1 — Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail today sought to clarify the proposed “regressive” changes to Malaysia’s citizenship laws that would close some pathways for stateless children to gain nationality here, saying that there were still legal avenues for them to pursue the matter.

Acknowledging the sensitivity of the issue raised by civil societies, Saifuddin insisted that these marginalised groups of stateless children still have legal options to obtain citizenship by way of registration under the Federal Constitution.

He said this was conveyed to the civil societies during their various engagement sessions with the government.

Under the Federal Constitution, acquisition of citizenship can be obtained by way of verification of citizenship status by Operation of Law (Article 14); by registration (Article 15, 15A and 16) and by naturalisation (Article 19).


“Let me give an analogy, say a Rohingya refugee mother marries an illegal migrant from Indonesia and a child is born out of their undocumented parents, constitutionally the child is a citizen by operation of law.

“So, we agree to that recommendation, we say that the child needs to be registered by the Welfare Department first and a subsequent application for citizenship will be submitted by the department.

“There needs to be elements of investigation, checks, so by operation of law there is still room for them to register as citizens, this is what some of the NGOs are finding it hard to accept,” he said when winding up the policy-level debate on the ministry’s Supply Bill 2024 in the Dewan Rakyat here.


In the proposed constitutional amendments, the Malaysian government plans to table amendments that would solve the citizenship problems plaguing the overseas-born children of Malaysian women with foreign husbands.

However, civil societies have since voiced their objections to the proposed amendments that would also affect children born out of wedlock to Malaysian men, stateless children adopted by Malaysian parents, foundlings or children who were abandoned (including those abandoned upon birth), and families with generations of stateless children born in Malaysia.

For the proposed citizenship amendments that remove safeguards from becoming stateless and which would potentially keep vulnerable children in a cycle of statelessness, NGOs have urged the Home Ministry to reconsider these amendments that “appear to be regressive and at odds with the best interests of the children involved”.

“I have a responsibility to provide justification and explanation whereby in the end it falls to the Members of Parliament in this August House to give it the necessary support (the constitutional amendment) because citizenship is a privilege,” Saifuddin added.

For such an enormous and prolonged undertaking, Saifuddin conceded that his ministry had cross-referenced with a total of 840 federal laws (Acts) currently enforced in the government’s effort to amend the Constitution and provide a strong justification for the country’s Rulers to consider.

As for the latest development, the minister said the proposed amendments have been submitted to the Conference of Rulers for deliberation and will be brought forward to the Cabinet for further consideration before the Bill is drafted.

Tabling for the proposed constitutional amendment is expected to take place in the current Dewan Rakyat sitting; as it is a constitutional amendment, a two-thirds parliamentary majority is required for the Bill to be approved.