Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today urged the government to relook its citizenship policy, claiming it renders thousands of rightful Malaysians, especially children, stateless.
LFL executive director Eric Paulsen said yesterday's Court of Appeal decisions in two cases have placed an almost impossible burden on stateless children to prove they are not citizens of other countries when they should have a right to citizenship by operation of the law.
This, Paulsen said, falls under the Second Schedule, Part II, Clause 1(e) of the Federal Constitution that states that “every person born within the Federation who is not born a citizen of any other country” is a citizen.
“Holding stateless applicants to standards of proof that are practically impossible to meet defeats the original protective intent of the citizenship clause, ie, to prevent statelessness.
“The government should respect the statelessness safeguard in the Federal Constitution by taking into account the practical realities and constraints the applicants or children would face in trying to trace their lineage, all the more so if they were abandoned as children,” Paulsen said in a statement today.
Yesterday that the Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed applications by two separate parents, one of an 18-year-old and the other a seven year-old, who were born in Malaysia, from getting citizenship.
Justice Badariah Sahamid cited the Ong Boon Hua (Chin Peng) case on the need for the applicants to provide proof the boys were stateless or were not citizens of other countries based on jus soli (birthright citizenship) and jus sanguinis, a principle of nationality law, by which citizenship is not determined by place of birth, but by having one or both parents who are citizens of the state.
The boys' lawyer N Surendran, described yesterday's decision as tragic and indicated they would apply for leave to appeal at the Federal Court.
Paulsen said the two decisions by the Court of Appeal yesterday have unfortunately reaffirmed the government’s arbitrary and discriminatory approach to recognising citizenship of stateless Malaysians, including children with genuine and effective link to the country.
“There are no good reasons why these two children with genuine claims to citizenship should continue to be stateless when the government, from time to time, accords citizenship to foreigners, or when the government grants citizenship to stateless cases when they are supported by government political parties,” he added.
Serious lack of concern
Paulsen reminded that the right to citizenship is universally recognised as a fundamental human right and it is a precondition to enjoying other basic rights and services.
“Statelessness severely curtails the life chances of these individuals and their well-being, despite being born and permanently residing in the country all their lives. That is a fact the government should not ignore,” the lawyer added.
He said stateless individuals are unable to access education, healthcare, employment and business, housing, social security and freedom of movement as they cannot be given passports - all of which lead to serious social problems.- Mkini