We refer to the statement by the Deputy Home Minister Azis Jamman in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday in which the Home Ministry put the blame for stateless children on failure of their parents to register their marriages.
This approach of the Home Ministry to the problem of stateless children is irresponsible and contrary to the Federal Constitution. It is similar to the discredited approach of the previous BN regime, which in the first place led to large numbers of children becoming stateless throughout Malaysia.
The marital status of the parents is irrelevant under the Federal Constitution. By virtue of the 2nd Schedule Part 2 section 1(a) of the Constitution, as long as one of the parents of the child is Malaysian, the child is automatically a Malaysian citizen.
The situation remains the same even where the mother is a non-citizen, because the child has fulfilled the requirement under section 1(a) that at least one parent is a citizen. Section 17 which states that in relation to an illegitimate person, a reference to his ‘parents’ must be regarded as a reference to his mother does not apply to section 1(a).
In short, irrespective of the mother being a non-citizen and the marriage being unregistered, the child is automatically entitled to Malaysian citizenship as long as the father is a citizen.
Hence, the position taken by the government in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday is a gross misstatement or misunderstanding of the law. Why is the Home Ministry bent on wrongly interpreting the Constitution to the prejudice and disadvantage of guiltless children, and rendering them stateless?
To adopt the course suggested by home ministry would be to punish the innocent child simply for being illegitimate, which is unjust and barbarous.
The Deputy Home Minister also claimed that children of unregistered marriages whose mother is a non-citizen can always apply under Article 15A for citizenship. But Article 15A is of no use to stateless children as it is granted at the absolute discretion of the Home Minister.
It has been a common problem that the application under Article 15A takes several years to process and frequently results in repeated rejection, while the stateless child remains in limbo. The PH government’s answer yesterday in Parliament that the children can apply under Article 15A was the standard response given by the old BN regime. It is a transparent delaying tactic to deny citizenship to desperate stateless children.
The position taken by the Home Ministry is not only against the law and Constitution, but also against the PH manifesto which recognised the problem of statelessness in Malaysia.
We urge the Government to reverse its position and grant citizenship to all children born in Malaysia, one of whose parents are Malaysian citizens, irrespective of whether their parent’s marriage was registered.