Thursday, October 21, 2021

Bersatu ministers to propose that govt revoke appeal against landmark citizenship ruling

This comes as the decision to appeal against the Sept 9 ruling appears to have little support from Cabinet members.

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Several ministers from Bersatu have agreed to propose to the Cabinet that the attorney-general be advised to withdraw the government’s appeal against a landmark High Court decision last week in defence of the right of Malaysian mothers to automatic citizenship for their children born abroad.

It is understood that Saifuddin Abdullah, Zuraida Kamaruddin and Rina Harun have agreed to make such a recommendation tomorrow following a discussion involving the three ministers today.

The matter will be brought to the Cabinet by Rina, who is the women, family and community development minister.

“Good outcome tomorrow hopefully,” Saifuddin said on Twitter today.

A source in the foreign ministry said there are concerns that keeping the current practice of not recognising the citizenship of children born overseas to Malaysian mothers would be a hurdle in Putrajaya’s bid to become a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

In 2019, Saifuddin, who was also the foreign minister then, stated Putrajaya’s intention to be elected to UNHRC, a move formalised late last year by Hishammuddin Hussein when he announced Malaysia’s bid for the 2022-2024 term.

Putrajaya had then given its commitment to attend to the plight of the Rohingya refugees, a move seen as an effort to convince UN members of its human rights credibility.

“This case threatens to become another hurdle to Malaysia’s bid for a seat in UNHRC. So it will be a welcome relief for Wisma Putra if the government backs down from the appeal,” the source told MalaysiaNow.

Malaysia was first elected to the council in 2006 but its membership was discontinued after 2013.

Pressure has been growing on Putrajaya after the home minister and the director-general of the National Registration Department filed a notice of appeal against the Sept 9 decision by High Court judge Akhtar Tahir, who ruled that Malaysian women married to foreign men have the same right as Malaysian men married to foreign women in this regard.

A suit was filed on Dec 18 last year by the Association of Family Support & Welfare Selangor & Kuala Lumpur (Family Frontiers) and six Malaysian women married to foreigners.

While the constitution gives Malaysian men married to foreign women the automatic right to confer citizenship on children born abroad, the same has not been the case with Malaysian women who marry foreigners and have children overseas, with many facing restrictions in bringing those children home.

Apart from the Bersatu trio, two other ministers have also spoken in support of equal rights for Malaysian women in matters of citizenship for their children.

Umno’s Annuar Musa in a brief comment yesterday urged authorities “to heed the voice of Malaysian mothers”, while GPS’ Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, who is also the minister in charge of law, lauded the court ruling, saying it was in line with the constitution’s guarantee of non-discrimination.

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