Ambiga challenges PH to let MPs vote freely on citizenship amendments

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Former Malaysian Bar president Ambiga Sreenevasan has challenged Pakatan Harapan to let their lawmakers vote freely on the contentious citizenship amendments being proposed by the government.

This was amid continued backlash over the amendments, particularly those that would remove automatic citizenship for foundlings.

“I dare Harapan to lift the whip and allow the MPs to vote according to their conscience on this ridiculous amendment.

“This is an important principle worth fighting for. Not even the BN or Perikatan Nasional governments did this. Madani, this is a disgrace!” she posted on X.

She said this in response to growing calls for voters to lobby their MPs to vote against amendments deemed regressive.

MPs from political parties are expected to follow the direction of their respective parliamentary party leaders – who are called whips.

The citizenship amendments encompass several different issues, one of which is to grant women the right to pass down citizenship to their overseas-born children.

While that amendment is lauded, other proposed changes have been criticised as potentially worsening statelessness in Malaysia.

One heavily criticised amendment would make it so that foundlings have to be registered in order to get citizenship.

This would mean that the power to grant citizenship is shifted from the Federal Constitution to the home minister.

Previously in November, backbenchers indicated they may vote against the amendments if the regressive elements are not separated from the positive ones.

Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Karim has openly said he would object to the foundling clause amendments, while former deputy law minister Ramkarpal Singh has also voiced criticism of the amendments in its current version.

Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail has repeatedly deflected criticism and justified the amendments as being necessary to prevent abuse by migrants, among others.

He claimed that migrants would abandon their babies after giving birth, because the newborns would then be considered foundlings and granted citizenship under Section 19B, Part III of the Second Schedule under the Federal Constitution.

However, activists said that Saifuddin’s reading of Section 19B was incorrect.

This is as Section 19B specifies that the parents of foundlings must be unknown.

Cabinet greenlit the amendments last week, but the bill has yet to make it to Parliament.

Saifuddin said there will be consultations first and he hoped to pass the amendments sometime this year. – Malaysiakini