The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has raised its concerns about the government’s assertion that it wanted to prevent the abuse or misuse of obtaining Malaysian citizenship through its proposal to amend several provisions of the Federal Constitution.
The commission expressed reservations about the government’s proposal to amend several citizenship provisions under Part II of the Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution, purportedly to prevent the misuse of those who acquire Malaysian citizenship.
“Suhakam is of the view that amendments to the Federal Constitution must be premised on a humane approach to enhance, clarify and streamline the process of citizenship applications,” it said in a statement late last night.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Shamsul Anuar Nasarah was reported by the national news agency Bernama to have cited the potential misuse while debating the proposal to amend provisions on citizenship matters in the Dewan Negara on December 13.
Shamsul Anuar said the rationale for the amendment was to prevent Section 1(e), which needs to be read together with Section 2(3) of the Second Schedule from being misinterpreted and misused to obtain citizenship.
“This includes [the misuse] from certain groups who are not eligible, such as illegitimate children who claim that they do not have any citizenship at birth,” he was quoted as telling the Senate.
Suhakam said the proposed amendments, particularly Sections 1(e) and 2(3) could adversely affect vulnerable groups like children born out of wedlock, stateless children adopted by Malaysian parents, and foundlings.
“These changes risk deepening the challenges faced by generational stateless individuals in Malaysia.
“These proposed amendments would then create generational issues of statelessness further burdening the State with such people unable to fend for themselves and unable to be productive and contribute to the nation,” it said.
Suhakam urged the government to adopt a holistic and considerate approach in addressing citizenship issues.
The commission said such an approach includes conducting thorough research on the potential impacts of these amendments and engaging in a comprehensive consultation process with a diverse range of stakeholders, including civil society organisations and experts in children’s rights and statelessness.
“It’s crucial that each amendment be carefully considered for its unique implications to ensure that the fundamental rights of all individuals, particularly children, are upheld,” Suhakam said.
The Anwar Cabinet had agreed in February to amend the Federal Constitution to allow Malaysian mothers married to foreigners to be able to obtain automatic citizenship for their children born abroad.
This involves the amendment of Section 1(1)(d) and Section 1(1)(e) of Part I in the Second Schedule, and Section 1(b) and Section 1(c) in Part II of the same schedule.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail announced in June that the government was in the process of finalising the proposed amendments comprehensively. – MMO