Citizenship for children of Malaysian mothers married to foreigners ― MK Sen

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SEPTEMBER 21 ― I am compelled to write this plea on behalf of my daughter and all Malaysian mothers married to foreigners on citizenship for their children. As a father and grandfather, I owe this to them and pray it is received with openness and compassion by all those responsible in the respective ministries.

Let us approach this fundamental right of our daughters as citizens of Malaysia. Let us not point fingers at any party but help put right what has regrettably been an ambiguity in law that has been left uncorrected all these years.

There are two basic issues I wish to address. Firstly, let us agree that the citizenship rights of our sons and daughters are enshrined in the Federal Constitution and with it, all the rights and privileges that follow. I trust this is acknowledged and accepted! If it is, then it follows that they are also entitled to the same rights and privileges when they’re married to foreigners. This conclusion is logical and factually correct.

For some inexplicable reason, the relevant section of the Constitution has been ambiguously worded. If we accept this to be so, let’s correct the error and clarify the content. There should not have been the need for the very succinct way that High Court Judge Datuk Akhtar Tahar has put it in his recent judgement following the legal  action taken by the aggrieved Malaysian mothers “that the word father should also read as mother” in interpreting the Constitution. We salute his understanding, insight and clarity of judgement!

We recognise the subtleties of the English language, but let’s use simple logic and common sense and move on without any finger pointing in our actions. We remain conscious that we will make mistakes along the way, but we must above all be magnanimous enough to put right what is wrong.

I am absolutely certain that there was an unfortunate error in the drafting of the ambiguous clause, the clause that has been used to bring so many of our dear daughters and their children to their knees, and for all involved having to go through so much pain, agony and uncertainty dealing with what is surely a basic human right.

I’m sure we all realise that every one of us owes gratitude to our mothers for what we are today, all made possible with a mother’s inherent ability to bring the best out of her children from birth till marriage and beyond. So let’s give these daughters of ours that same opportunity irrespective of whom they marry! This love and care of a mother for her child should never be denied.

The second issue I wish to address is that of “dual citizenship” for Malaysian women married to foreigners. If we are agreed that our sons and daughters have the same rights in citizenship, then it follows that the “issue of dual citizenship” must be the same. How else can we justify that the dual citizenship of our daughters’s children is different from those of the son’s?

Every Malaysian male married to a foreigner must logically carry the same issues of dual citizenship as a Malaysian female! So in my humble view this is a non-issue and doesn’t warrant debate.

We recognise that it is the government's prerogative to issue citizenship to anyone it chooses to, but in exercising this power the same criteria and standards of justice and fairness must be applied equally to both our son’s and daughters.

Malaysian wave national flags during National Day celebrations marking the 56th anniversary of the country's independence, at Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur August 31, 2013. — Reuters file pic
Malaysian wave national flags during National Day celebrations marking the 56th anniversary of the country's independence, at Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur August 31, 2013. — Reuters file pic

It is my understanding that every child born to parents with one party being a foreigner, will face the possibility of an entitlement to dual citizenship. As Malaysia does not accord that entitlement to any person it is fair to ensure that when the child comes of age, in the case of Malaysia, I believe it is at age 21, it would be a mandatory requirement for the child to decide which of the citizenships he or she wishes to accept. That should be the rule of the day! The government cannot and should not deny this reality in law, nor should it impose this arbitrarily or use it as an excuse not to grant citizenship to children of our daughters when an application is made.

I hope I have expressed candidly and clearly how we as parents and grandparents feel for our daughters and their children and for all Malaysian mothers who are affected by the current impasse and grievances.

I call on the government, our leaders and all relevant departments and agencies involved, to graciously concede that the unfortunate ambiguity in the legislation of the citizenship rights of our sons and daughters be graciously and magnanimously recognised and appropriately rectified in the interest of every Malaysian.  Let us be proud to be citizens of Malaysia.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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