NOVEMBER 17 ― On September 9, 2021, the Malaysian High Court delivered a landmark decision pronouncing that Malaysian women should have the same right as Malaysian men, under the Federal Constitution, to pass on citizenship automatically to their children born overseas.
Despite bipartisan urging not to appeal, Malaysia's government filed an appeal as well as a stay of execution of the High Court’s decision.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin should explain why the administration chose to defy the resounding plea from women leaders from both sides of the bench to not appeal the decision, not to apply for a stay of execution and to immediately grant citizenship to the children as decided by the High Court.
It is critical to highlight the government's attitude so far at various stages of the case since the mothers filed their suit. The actions taken by the government through every step of the case is telling of discrimination against both the mothers and their children. When six affected mothers and Family Frontiers filed a lawsuit on December 18, 2020, the government made an application to have the entire court case dismissed without being heard in January 2021. This only implies that the government condones gender-based discrimination.
Fortunately, the government's application for striking out was denied by the High Court in May 2021. The case must be heard on its merits, according to the High Court. They then (the government) appealed to the Court of Appeal after the striking out bid failed in the High Court.
They failed in their second attempt to have the case dismissed when the Court of Appeal dismissed their appeal on August 20, 2021, and the High Court then proceeded to hear the case on August 24, 2021.
This chronology of events clearly shows the government’s intention to discriminate against Malaysian women is so evident. The message is clear, i.e. Malaysian women should not have equal rights as Malaysian men to grant citizenship rights to their children. There are thousands of children affected and thousands of mothers who are Malaysian citizens who are placed at an unfair position due to no fault of theirs.
Just day before yesterday, on November 15, 2021, the High Court dismissed the government’s application for stay of execution of the decision.
The High Court was right to dismiss the stay as this is also a social and policy issue that goes to the heart of national identity. What is the government’s solution to the thousands of children who remain victims to this discrimination? My call is for Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin to carry out the prayers granted by the court i.e. to grant the children citizenship. Take ownership of this problem, create the political will to solve and it will be solved. Gate-keeping to citizenship should not be carried out by unfair procedures and discriminatory provisions.
The government must grant citizenship to the children in question with tremendous urgency. I call on the Home Minister to obey the decision of the High Court and view this as a rights concern. We must strive to be better, matured and objective in this crisis. Malaysians regardless of gender must have the right to pass on citizenship to their children.
* Teo Nie Ching is Kulai Member of Parliament.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.