No ‘automatic’ citizenship for foreign-born children of Malaysian mothers

PUTRAJAYA: In a split decision, the Court of Appeal has ruled that children born abroad to Malaysian mothers can be denied citizenship by law enforcement.

Bank President Kamaludin Md Said and Azizah Nawawi were in the majority, while S Nantha Balan dissented.

The majority said that the word “father” in the Second Schedule of Part 11 of the Federal Constitution meant the biological father and could not be extended to include the mother or fathers.

Kamaludin and Azizah, who said they were following legal principles in a Federal Court ruling issued last year, added that it was up to Parliament, not the court, to rewrite the constitution.

Nantha Balan said that the current legal status of the mother’s lineage was made to appear inferior to that of the father.

He said that Article 14, which allowed children outside the federation to obtain citizenship, was discriminatory as it violated the equality provision.

He said the denial of citizenship was also against international law to which Malaysia was a party.

This means that today’s ruling was handed down in favor of the government, the interior minister and the director general of the National Registration Department (JPN), who appear as appellants and defendants in two cases.

Last year, the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that the government must grant citizenship to children born abroad to Malay mothers, as the word “father” in the constitution’s Second Schedule must mean and include mothers. Allowing several declaratory reliefs sought by an NGO and six mothers that certain citizenship provisions in the constitution were discriminatory, Judge Akhtar Tahir said they were entitled to have citizenship conferred by operation of law.

In the second case, Mahisha Sulaiha, born to a Malay mother and father of Indian nationality in India, is appealing a 2020 High Court ruling that favored the government over her attempt to become a citizen.


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