Children born abroad to Malaysian mothers entitled for citizenship, court rules

Datuk Akhtar Tahir

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court, in a landmark decision today, declared that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers who are married to foreigners are entitled by operation of law to be citizens of Malaysia.

Counsel Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar when contacted by Bernama said Judge Datuk Akhtar Tahir ruled that Part II of the Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution must also mean and include mothers.

“The judge came to this verdict after a harmonious reading of several Articles in the Constitution.

 “The judge also made an order that all the relevant authorities must issue relevant documents, like identity cards, to these children in recognition of this effect,” he said, adding that the judge did not make any order as to costs as the case involved public interest.

The court made the ruling via online proceedings after allowing a legal suit filed by the Association of Family Support & Welfare Selangor & Kuala Lumpur (Family Frontiers) and six Malaysian women who are married to foreigners for their overseas-born children to have the right to become Malaysian citizens.

In an originating summons filed on Dec 18 last year, they are seeking six specific court orders, including a declaration that Section 1(b) and Section 1(c)  of the Second Schedule, Part II of the Federal Constitution be read harmoniously with Article 8 (2) to include Malaysian mothers as a condition for children born abroad to be given automatic Malaysian citizenship.

Among other things, they are also seeking a court order for all relevant government agencies, including the National Registration Department (NRD),  Immigration Department and Malaysian embassies, to issue all documents relating to citizenship (including passports and identity cards) to children born abroad to Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses.

They named the Malaysian Government, the Home Minister and the Director-General of the NRD as defendants. All the defendants were represented by senior federal counsel Liew Horng Bin.

Gurdial said the decision by the court fulfilled the Parliament’s intention in amending Article 8 of the constitution in 2001 to guarantee that there will be no discrimination against women and also to preserve the family structure so that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers are citizens by operation of law.

“It’s a momentous decision that restores the right of mothers in line with Parliament’s amendment in 2001 to outlaw discrimination against women. And gives them and their overseas-born children equal right as fathers in a similar situation,” he added.

Meanwhile, the president of Family Frontiers, Suri Kempe said they were thankful for the outcome and it was a huge relief for affected mothers because this judgment applied not just to the mothers directly involved in the case, but to all Malaysian mothers who are similarly affected.

“This judgment recognises Malaysian women’s equality, and marks one step forward to a more egalitarian and just Malaysia,” she said in a statement. – Bernama