Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Don’t appeal High Court ruling on equal citizenship if you’re sincere, govt told

Lawyers for Liberty also says the High Court's decision is already in line with the proposed amendment and has force of law.

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Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today questioned the home minister’s explanation in Parliament of the government’s appeal against a recent High Court ruling on automatic citizenship for children born overseas to Malaysian women, saying there is no reason for Putrajaya to continue with the move.

LFL coordinator Zaid Malek said Hamzah Zainudin’s statement that the appeal was to “buy time” for an amendment to the Federal Constitution made no sense.

“There is no need for the appeal as the current decision is already in line with the proposed amendment, and the said decision has force of law.

“Instead of appealing, the government should ensure that the National Registration Department complies with the recent ruling while the proposed amendment is in the works,” he said in a statement.

“If the government is truly sincere about making the necessary amendments to the constitution to now give children born overseas to Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses citizenship by operation of law, it must withdraw its appeal against the High Court ruling in Suriani Kempe’s case.”

Hamzah had said in the Dewan Rakyat that he was restricted by the constitution and laws on citizenship, adding that a stay is needed so that the government does not commit contempt of court or violate the constitution.

He said his ministry intends to raise the matter for a new government policy to amend the constitution, but noted that this would need approval from the Conference of Rulers in accordance with Article 159(5) of the Federal Constitution.

On Sept 9, the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers married to foreigners are entitled by operation of law to be citizens of Malaysia.

High Court judge Akhtar Tahir ruled that the word “father” in Part II of the Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution must also mean and include mothers.

However, on Sept 13 the government decided to file an appeal to quash the High Court’s decision.

Zaid said the High Court’s decision was “in essence the very point of law that the amendment seeks to enforce”.

“Thus there is no reason for the government to continue this appeal,” he added.

He also rubbished the notion that a previous conflicting court decision would prevent the government from following the most recent ruling on the matter.

“The government could simply concede to the appeal during the hearing at the Court of Appeal in November. The issue of contempt of court therefore does not arise.

“The decision, which is in line with the amendment sought by the government, would allow the government to enforce the ruling until it is then incorporated in the amendment. There is no need for the appeal to ‘buy time’,” he said.

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