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Decision of govt, not rulers, Bersatu slams Anwar on amendments to citizenship laws

Bersatu calls for a halt to the narrative attributing responsibility to the Conference of Rulers.

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Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim during a meeting of the Conference of Rulers at Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur on Oct 26. Photo: Facebook
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim during a meeting of the Conference of Rulers at Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur on Oct 26. Photo: Facebook

Bersatu today hit out at recent remarks by the prime minister on the government's proposal to amend parts of the constitution related to citizenship, urging a halt to the narrative attributing responsibility for the decision to the Conference of Rulers. 

Anwar Ibrahim said on Nov 6 that the proposed amendments had been presented to the rulers, and that there was a "limit to what we can do". 

"After the discussions, any constitutional amendment in the issue of citizenship has to be cleared with the Conference of Rulers.

"So the Conference of Rulers has taken a certain position and we will have to honour it," he was reported as saying.

Bersatu however said it was the government's decision to amend the constitution on matters of citizenship, a controversial move that had sparked warnings from experts and activists of "a new class" of stateless individuals in the event of its success. 

"The proposed amendment was initiated by the home ministry, brought to his Cabinet and thereafter, it was his government that produced the proposed amendment to the Conference of Rulers.

"At this point in time, under the Federal Constitution, the Conference of Rulers only has what was presented to them by the government and can only consent or not to their proposed amendment to be tabled at Parliament," it said in a statement by Sasha Lyna Abdul Latif, deputy chairman of Bersatu's legal and constitutional bureau, and Mourhrna Anetha Reddy, chief of its women's wing. 

More than 100 organisations and activists involved in the fight for equal citizenship previously warned Putrajaya against any attempt to quietly amend citizenship laws that could victimise stateless children.

Anwar said in July that proposed constitutional amendments would be presented to the Conference of Malay Rulers, referring to amendments that would solve citizenship problems plaguing the overseas-born children of Malaysian women with foreign husbands.

Lawyers and activists however warned against packaging these amendments with others that would remove the right of abandoned children or orphans to citizenship.

Describing the latter group as "cruel" and "regressive", Bersatu said they had never been raised by any other government prior to the current administration led by Pakatan Harapan. 

"What the government is doing with the proposed amendment is to strip this inherent right which was conferred to by our nation’s supreme law and by the makers of the law," it said. 

"What the current government has done is to take a progressive idea which was to grant citizenship to children born to Malaysian mothers and put it together with a whole lot of other regressive amendments to strip away the right of citizenship to so many innocent people who were born in Malaysia. 

"This move by the government not only will cause more and more backlogs in the National Registration Department and home ministry, but will also see a huge increase in the number of stateless persons in our country."