No need to revoke existing rights of children categorised as 'permanently resident' - MCRA

Proposed citizenship law changes could leave foreign wives stateless

25 Mar 2024 06:50pm
Photo for illustration purpose only. - FILE PIX
Photo for illustration purpose only. - FILE PIX

SHAH ALAM - The Malaysian Citizenship Rights Alliance (MCRA) has urged the government not to revoke the existing rights of children categorised as 'permanently resident,' ensuring their automatic entitlement to Malaysian citizenship.

The alliance stressed that any changes could adversely affect children of Malaysian permanent residents, particularly Orang Asli and Orang Asal communities.

"We suggest an alternative wording to insert the words 'a person who was born in and permanently resident in the Federation'.

"This will protect the children of stateless Orang Asli and Orang Asal with permanent resident status, while preventing children of non-nationals who are PR holders from accessing citizenship by operation of law," MCRA said in a statement today.

MCRA also recommended expanding the protection provided under Article 26B(2) to encompass Article 26(2), ensuring that a foreign wife does not lose her Malaysian citizenship if the revocation renders her stateless.

"For Article 26(2), the proposed revision gives the government power to deprive a foreign wife of citizenship if the marriage is dissolved within two year of her obtaining citizenship.

"However, such wives can be protected by expanding the protection under Article 26B(2) to include Article 26(2), so that a foreign wife shall not be deprived of her Malaysian citizenship if the deprivation will render her stateless," MCRA said.

MCRA also urged the government not to amend the Federal Constitution to lower the age limit for obtaining Malaysian citizenship from 21 to 18 years old.

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"We recommend that the government does not reduce the age limit from 21 to 18 years old because ensuring the protection of children and young persons must be of paramount consideration.

"However, if the government insists on reducing the age limit, we suggest that the government consider introducing a grace period of three years before enforcing these amendments (to subsections (15(2), 15A, 19(1), 19(2), 23(1), 23(3), and 26A)) to ensure that young persons caught in the transition period are not denied their right to citizenship.

On overseas-born children of Malaysian mothers, MCRA highlighted that amendments to Sections 1(b) and 1(c), Part II of the Second Schedule (pertaining to Article 14(1)(b)), should not apply retroactively and should only affect children born after the amendment takes effect.

"This means that any child who is now above 21 has no effective pathway to citizenship.

"We recommend the government include a transitional provision for children born overseas to Malaysians mothers who are not able to take advantage of the amendments," it said.

Last Friday, Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail announced that the government would not proceed with two out of five citizenship amendments deemed regressive by civil society groups.

The government clarified that it would uphold the existing provisions in the Federal Constitution, including Section 19B of the Second Schedule’s Part III, ensuring Malaysian citizenship for foundlings or abandoned babies born in Malaysia, and Section 1(e) of the Second Schedule’s Part II, preventing individuals born in Malaysia from becoming stateless.