A CONSORTIUM of civil society organisations dedicated to addressing statelessness and citizenship rights issues has come forward to address recent developments surrounding proposed amendments to citizenship laws by the Home Affairs Ministry (MOHA).
In an official statement released today, the Malaysian Citizenship Rights Alliance (MCRA) expressed its reservations about the potential implications of the proposed amendments. They also emphasised that they have conveyed these concerns to MOHA and hope that their input will be taken into consideration, particularly due to the direct impact on Malaysian families.
MCRA’s concerns were reinforced by the recent live Facebook sharing of Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail during the monthly meeting with MOHA officers on Aug 22.
Saifuddin conveyed that stakeholder engagement had taken place and that the proposed amendments would be presented to the Council of Rulers for their consent in October.
“We would like to request the Home Ministry to conduct a two-way engagement to share the findings and views backed with verified statistical data, from the consultations held with the various stakeholders. This is important, to learn if the proposed amendments have been further amended to reflect on the concerns raised.
“As civil societies and experts alike have confirmed that it will lead to the deterioration of the rights of stateless persons especially among Malaysian families as enshrined in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia,” urged MCRA.
While acknowledging the positive step forward in allowing Malaysian mothers to confer citizenship on their overseas-born children, the coalition raises significant concerns about other amendments, particularly those relating to the following categories:
1. Children born out of wedlock to Malaysian men
2. Stateless children adopted by Malaysian parent(s)
3. Foundlings: Abandoned children
4. Generational stateless children or persons
MCRA is of the opinion that every child has an inherent right to a nationality and the protection that citizenship provides. They argued that some proposed amendments deviate from this fundamental principle, potentially stripping citizens of citizenship rights and perpetuating the cycle of statelessness among vulnerable children and individuals.
Moreover, MCRA has called upon MOHA to engage genuinely with a diverse range of stakeholders, including civil society organisations and experts specialising in children’s rights and statelessness. They also urge the ministry to reconsider any amendments that may be regressive and counter to the best interests of the affected children.
Furthermore, MCRA recommended that amendments related to children born overseas to Malaysian mothers proceed to parliamentary debate promptly, as they reflect progressive adjustments acknowledging the rights of Malaysian mothers and their children.
However, the group advocates for a more deliberate approach regarding other proposed amendments, particularly those that involve changes to citizenship rights by operation of law and other potentially limiting, regressive amendments that could perpetuate childhood statelessness.
According to MCRA, amendments covering complex and sensitive scenarios, require comprehensive research, deep understanding and broad stakeholder consultation. The group suggested deferring such amendments and only presenting them to Parliament after a thorough and sincere consultation process.
The MCRA statement was endorsed by its 18 organisations, including the Advocates for Non-discrimination and Access to Knowledge (ANAK), Sabah, Association of Family Support & Welfare Selangor & Kuala Lumpur (Family Frontiers), the Association of Women Lawyers (AWL), Bait Al Amanah (BAA), Buku Jalanan Chow Kit, Development of Human Resources for Rural Areas (DHRRA), Malaysia; National Human Rights Society (Hakam), HaKita, IMAN Research, Johor Women’s League (JEWEL) and Lawyer Kamek (Sarawak).
The others in the list of 18 organisations who endorsed the statement are the Malaysia Hindu Dharma Mamandram (MHDM), Malaysian Collaborative Practice Group, Persatuan Pendidikan Bajau Laut (Iskul Sama diLaut Omadal), Persatuan Untuk Anak Kita (PUAKPayong), Stateless Malaysians Citizenship Movement; Voice of Children (VOC) and Yayasan Chow Kit (YCK). – Aug 26, 2023
Main photo credit: Devan Manuel