Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin yesterday defended his ministry’s move not to comply with a court order granting automatic citizenship to the children born abroad to Malaysian women married to foreigners, saying nationality is the highest award given by the government and cannot be arbitrarily offered.
Speaking in an interview with RTM, he said there were two cases in question, with differing outcomes.
“One of them is Suriani vs the federal government. Suriani won. The other is Mahisha Sulaiha Abdul Majeed vs the government, which the government won.
“Because of this difference, I as the minister can only follow the federal constitution. I sympathise and this issue is not being rejected offhand.”
He said if he did not comply with the court order, he would be seen as in contempt of court.
“If I follow the court, this means I will violate the Federal Constitution. What would be the point then of me swearing an oath but then not upholding the constitution?
“This is not an issue to be trifled with,” he added. “Even if I sympathise, what should I do?”
The cases to which he referred were those of Suriani Kempe and six others against the Malaysian government and the case of Mahisha Sulaiha Abdul Majeed against the director-general of the National Registration Department and two others over the interpretation of the term “father” in the Second Schedule Part II Section 1 (b) and 1 (c) of the Federal Constitution.
Hamzah said the move to continue the appeal against the former was to allow the government to avoid being in contempt of court and to comply with the provisions of the constitution.
“If I want to change the constitution, it is not only up to me,” he said. First, he said, the matter would need to be brought to the Cabinet after which it must be brought to the Malay rulers.
“If the Malay rulers agree, then we can go back to change the policy for certain sections,” he said.
“No matter how much I sympathise, I must return to the law and follow certain steps until finally, we can change and give comfort to all.”
He also said the main underlying issue in many cases is that of parents’ marriage registration.
“If the mother prioritises citizenship, she should give birth in Malaysia, in the country.
“If she prioritises the citizenship of her husband and gives birth overseas because of rules placing the responsibility on both parents to register the child, that is not a problem either.
“The problem is when the child is born overseas and the father is not a citizen.”
He added that while the Federal Constitution allows applications to be filed, this is no guarantee that that application will be approved.
“This has become a big issue in the country. It is necessary to understand my position as the guardian of the law on the issue of citizenship.
“The main thing is loyalty to the country. If we are loyal, of course we will want citizenship of our own country.”