MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Friday, June 30, 2023

‘Hold Bill on stateless kids’


Activists have called on the Home Ministry to carry out more meetings with civil rights groups before tabling the proposed amendments to the Constitution on the fate of stateless children in the country.

Although they have lauded the government’s effort in dealing with stateless children born overseas to Malaysian mothers, it would also need to consider the plight of other stateless children in the country.

They claimed that the proposed amendments, likely to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat this year, would cast doubt on the status of stateless children who had been abandoned, born out of wedlock or adopted as they would need to prove that they were children of Malaysians in their applications to become citizens.

Children Commissioner Dr Farah Nini Dusuki described the proposed amendments as “wilfully dangerous” as they could lead to exclusion of many stateless children.

“More consultations should be held with all the relevant stakeholders to ensure that the weaknesses in the law and Federal Constitution be addressed for clarity,” the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) said when contacted yesterday.

Dr Farah, a senior lecturer at Universiti Malaya’s law faculty, said the proposed amendments should aim to reduce the number of stateless of children in the country.

She was commenting on the June 24 meeting held between stakeholders and the Home Ministry on the proposed constitutional amendments.

Child activist Datuk Hartini Zainuddin said stateless children born overseas to Malaysian mothers were just one category of stateless children in the country.

She said the proposed amendments should also address the issue of other stateless children in the country.

“What about the children born out of wedlock, babies who have been abandoned due to teen pregnancies and generations of stateless people in Chow Kit, Klang and Sabah?” she said.

She said a more comprehensive approach should be taken before the amendments were tabled to include updating the archaic adoption laws.

According to data from the National Registration Department, there are over 500,000 illegitimate children born out of wedlock in the country between 2000 and 2015.

The issue of stateless children must be handled not only by the Home Ministry but other ministries including health and education, Hartini said.

Director of the development of human resources for rural areas social protection Maalini Ramalo said more meetings should be held with the government before the proposed amendments were tabled.

“The one-off engagement with civil society organisations on June 24 will not be enough.

“It is crucial that the National Registration Department and the Home Ministry work hand in hand with various entities and stakeholders to achieve a more amicable solution,” she said.

While addressing the plight of stateless children born to Malaysian mothers abroad is commendable, the issue of stateless children must be looked at in its entirety.

It is learnt that one of the proposed amendments is to Article 14(1)(b) is in regard to citizenship for children born overseas to Malaysian mothers.

The proposed amendment will see the word “father” be replaced by the word “parent”.

Other proposed amendments will see the exclusion of application for citizenship by children born in the country to permanent residents under Article 14(a) as the words “permanent residents” would be removed from the provision.

Currently, children born to Malaysian fathers and permanent residents can apply for citizenship under the Federal Constitution.

Other proposed amendments will have the effect of creating a “new class” of stateless children born in the country whose parents’ nationalities are unknown, according to child activists.

The civil rights groups also want the proposed amendment to Article 15 (1) to allow a foreign man married to a Malaysian woman to have the right to apply for citizenship to be included.

Article 15(1) applies only to women married to Malaysians.

In March, Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail told the Dewan Rakyat that there were 688 citizenship applications involving children born to Malaysian mothers abroad.

Of the 150,000 citizenship applications received by the ministry, he said, most of cases involved stateless children and children born out of wedlock.

On June 27, The Star highlighted a letter Prof Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi on the proposed amendments titled “One step forward, several steps back”.

The Universiti Malaya Tunku Abdul Rahman chair lauded the government’s effort to deal with stateless children born to overseas Malaysian mothers.

However, he expressed concern over some accompanying regressive proposals that allegedly seek to tighten the law on nationality.

“Some of these proposals are inhuman, cruel, heartless and in violation of our international obligations under the UN Convention on the rights of the child,” he said. - Star

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