Civil society wants urgent meeting with PM, Cabinet on citizenship law amendments, outlines demands in open letter

The letter outlined both support for certain amendments and serious reservations regarding others.

21 Mar 2024 05:22pm
MCRA's open letter to PM opposes proposed citizenship law amendments. - FILE PIX
MCRA's open letter to PM opposes proposed citizenship law amendments. - FILE PIX

SHAH ALAM - More than a hundred civil society members have written an open letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the Cabinet on the proposed citizenship law amendments.

The letter, issued by the Malaysian Citizenship Rights Alliance (MCRA), outlined both support for certain amendments and serious reservations regarding others. You can read the full open letter here.

The MCRA acknowledged and supported the government's intention to amend the Federal Constitution to grant Malaysian mothers equal rights to confer citizenship to their overseas-born children.

However, the alliance expressed deep concern over five proposed amendments that they deemed regressive and potentially harmful to vulnerable groups, particularly children.

Despite attempts to engage with relevant authorities over the past nine months to discuss these concerns, the MCRA stated that a meaningful dialogue had been refused.

They stressed the importance of their input, drawn from collective knowledge, experience and expertise in the field, in ensuring that any amendments were well-informed and just.

One of the key concerns raised by the MCRA pertained to the alleged inaccuracies in data presented by the government to justify the proposed amendments.

"The alleged 142 submissions do not represent the total number of foundlings and abandoned babies in Malaysia.

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"According to the Women, Family and Community Development Minister (Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri), police statistics indicated 256 cases of abandoned babies between 2020 to 2022 alone," the statement read.

Similarly, MCRA said "marriages of convenience" raised questions about the necessity of proposed amendments aimed at curbing such practices.

"We are also given to understand that the government intends to amend Article 26(2) of the Constitution allegedly to curb "marriages of convenience"," the statement added.

The government’s proposal was to give itself power to strip a (previously) non-citizen wife of her Malaysian citizenship if the marriage was dissolved within two years after she obtained her citizenship.

"However, in a recent answer given in the Special Chamber of the Dewan Rakyat on March 12, the Home Affairs Deputy Minister admitted that the ministry does not have any data on "marriages of convenience".

"In other words, the government is attempting to make a constitutional amendment to solve a "problem" that it cannot prove exists," MCRA said.

Furthermore, the discrepancies in processing times for Permanent Residence (MyPR) applications and concerns regarding the removal of constitutional safeguards on statelessness highlighted the need for a thorough evaluation before implementing any changes, MCRA said.

MCRA said the proposed amendments could potentially exacerbate issues such as statelessness, human trafficking and corruption, rather than resolve them.

The organisation stressed the importance of evidence-based decision-making, transparency and consultation in addressing migration-related challenges.

"What is at stake are the rights of Malaysian-born children, their dignity and their freedom to realise their potential.

"The political interests of the moment must surely take a backseat.

"The preservation of national security is vital, but so too is the preservation of our nationhood and our collective humanity.

"Any efforts to resolve serious issues of concern regarding migration through porous borders must be evidence-based, transparent and consultative.

"In this regard, we hope the Prime Minister and the members of Cabinet will give us an opportunity to present our concerns and recommendations regarding the government’s proposed amendments to the citizenship law," it said.