Amending Constitution is not as easy, citizenship issue goes beyond government - Wan Junaidi
SHAH ALAM - Amending the constitution on citizenship is not something to be taken lightly as there are pros and cons that need to be considered.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the government needed to study various angles of the issue before making any crucial decisions.
He was responding to the calls for amendment of Article 14(3) of the Federal Constitution to allow Malaysian mothers who are married to foreign spouses to automatically obtain citizenship for their children born overseas.
“There are various stakeholders of the high levels and not just the government," he told Sinar Daily.
The citizenship issue, he said went beyond the government as it involved the Conference of Rulers.
Wan Junaidi said the government would need to analyse and study the implications of dual citizenship which was not permissible by the constitution.
This, he said could raise the difficult issue of “protection under the law” by both countries concerning Malaysia over the child at the age below 18 when he could not make decisions legally for himself over which country he wished to be a citizen of.
He said the solution was to wait for the child to turn 18 and make the choice legally.
“The government should not make the choice for him,” he added.
Yesterday, the Court of Appeal ruled that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers who are married to foreign spouses are not entitled by operation of law to be Malaysian citizens.
In a 2-1 majority decision, the court ruled that under the Federal Constitution’s citizenship clause which states having a Malaysian "father” as the requirement for an overseas-born child to be a Malaysian citizen, refers to "father” only and not intended to be interpreted to also include "mother”.
Standing by the decision, Wan Junaidi said the court's interpretation of the constitution was obviously correct.
He said when there was a clear word of the law, the court ought to give it natural meaning and should not and could interpret it in any other way.
“It is not for the court to rewrite the law, it is the role of the legislature and not the court.
“Where the word and term are ambiguous, then the court must find the intention of Parliament in enacting such law and using such word and term.
"Since 1992 the House of Lord had decided in the case of Pepper Vs Hart that the court may refer to the Hansard to find that intention.
"Failing which, then the court may use the time-tried rules of interpretation rather than putting its own word into the law," he said.
A three-man Court of Appeal bench on Friday allowed the appeal by the government, Home Ministry and National Registration Department (NRD) director-general to not grant citizenship to the children born overseas to Malaysian mothers.
The authorities appealed against the High Court's decision on Sept 9, 2021, which allowed the lawsuit by family rights advocacy group Family Frontiers and six Malaysian women married to foreigners with overseas-born children seeking for their children born abroad to automatically become Malaysian citizens.
The majority decision was agreed to by judge Datuk Seri Kamaludin Md Said who chaired the bench and judge Datuk Azizah Nawawi, while judge Datuk S. Nantha Balan dissented.
Several parties have raised concerns over the decision, saying it was unjust for the children and urged for the constitution to be amended as children born overseas to Malaysian mothers should be given equal rights similar to children born overseas to Malaysian fathers.
Muda president Syed Sadiq Syed Abdul Rahman said while he respected the court’s decision, he has the responsibility to defend the rights of the children involved in such situation.
He highlighted that the Home Minister had given its commitment last year in Parliament to amend the constitution to include "children born overseas to Malaysian mothers" under the Third Schedule, Article 14(3) of the Federal Constitution, and urged the ministry to view the issue seriously.
Meanwhile, MCA spokesman Chan Quin Er said the Dewan Rakyat should consider to amend the constitution so that overseas-born children could obtain citizenship from “either parent” or “either mother or father” or “both mother and father”.
Also sharing the same view was DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke who urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to table an amendment bill at the next parliamentary session.