Home Minister Saifuddin’s citizenship amendments will massively increase the backlog of citizenship applications and punish stateless children
9 November 2023
We refer to Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution’s statement yesterday in which he claims that he is “all for resolving the issue of stateless children” and that “his approach is to facilitate applicants, and not to punish them”.
If this is so, it is baffling and incomprehensible why the Minister is adamant on pushing through controversial amendments to the Federal Constitution which will create a massive new class of stateless persons in Malaysia, by removing the safeguards against statelessness which are built into the Constitution. The amendments not only punish the stateless, but deprive them entirely of their right to statehood and reduce them to a desperate existence on the edges of society.
It is also surprising that the Minister appears taken aback by the backlash he has received on the proposed amendments. These are horrendous amendments that go against the spirit of the Constitution that has always ensured that no one would be left stateless in our country. Is it a wonder that the Minister is facing a backlash from the public?
Saifuddin’s now notorious amendments punishes children for circumstances out of their control, depriving them of their rights to education, healthcare, and future employment, dooming them to a life without any legal protection or hope for a future. It is unprecedented and destroys lives and futures.
The Minister also cannot on one hand lament being overburdened with 150,000 cases on his table whilst also advocating the proposed amendments that will make all applications go through the Home Ministry by the process of registration, instead of by operation of law. This will vastly increase the number of applications to be dealt with by the Home Ministry.
If the amendments are withdrawn and the law remains as it is now, then those who are entitled to citizenship as of right would get it automatically. It would simply be a matter of ensuring that the law is properly applied by JPN.
Whilst the Minister asserts that the Home Ministry “is not working in silos”, he has failed to address JPN’s role in contributing to the statelessness. As has been pointed out time and again, JPN has largely contributed to the growing number of stateless persons; they have given the wrong advice, directing the stateless to the wrong type of application, unilaterally adding unnecessary stipulations to applications contrary to the law and even unlawfully withholding Form E, the appropriate form for citizenship as of right under article 14(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution. JPN has also shown blatant disregard of the Federal Court decision in the landmark CCH case that declares foundlings to have a right to citizenship under section 19B of Part III of the Second Schedule of the Constitution. How then can Saifuddin assert that his officers are “guided by the Federal Constitution on the provisions for citizenships”?
All of this has been communicated to him, both privately and publicly. Yet, he and the government has instead chosen to ignore it and are now proposing a set of amendments that would deprive the stateless of their constitutional right to citizenship under the law.
To avoid the condemnation of history, the Home Minister and this government must heed public concerns and withdraw these pernicious proposed amendments which punish children, orphans, foundlings and stateless Malaysians who were born here and only know this country as their home.
Lawyers for Liberty