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Hannah Yeoh, stop misleading the public on citizenship bill

Thousands of stateless children born overseas to Malaysian mothers will receive no benefit whatsoever from this bill.

Zaid Malek
2 minute read

We refer to the statement made by minister Hannah Yeoh in a recent interview in which she defended the controversial citizenship bill and said she was "pleased" that the government had "managed to table the bill" and that it would give Malaysian mothers with children born overseas the right to confer citizenship upon them. 

Yeoh’s comments on the controversial citizenship bill is grossly misleading, dishonest and completely ignores the serious concerns about the Bill raised by civil society, human rights lawyers, the Bar Council, Suhakam, prominent individuals and even some PH MPs.

Firstly, the citizenship bill failed to be debated and passed by parliament in the recent session, despite all the promises made by the unity government leaders that the plight of the Malaysian mothers would be resolved. 

In fact, what happened was that the home minister announced that the Bill was ready to be debated just minutes before the parliament sitting was adjourned. 

This was just a charade, and a clear abuse of the standing orders of the Dewan Rakyat. As the government controls the business of the Dewan, they could easily have had the bill debated and passed. 

In the end, nothing was accomplished, and no relief given to the thousands of Malaysian mothers who were waiting desperately for the law to be passed.

Secondly, the thousands upon thousands of stateless children born overseas to Malaysian mothers will receive no benefit whatsoever from this bill, contrary to what was claimed by Yeoh. 

By virtue of clause 12(1) only children born after the passing of the amendments will receive citizenship. Those existing thousands of children will be left in the lurch. 

This is cruel and ridiculous because the government claimed from the beginning that it was to help these children that they are amending the constitution. As a result, the Malaysian mothers have been left hopeless and devastated by this deliberate exclusion of their children from the ambit of the Bill. 

It is a great disappointment that Yeoh and her colleagues persist in painting a false and positive picture of the citizenship bill, which bears no connection with the reality. 

PH had repeatedly promised when in opposition to resolve the terrible problem of statelessness in Malaysia. Now in power, they are misleading and offering excuses. 

We strongly urge the government to immediately announce that the citizenship bill will be amended to include existing children born overseas to Malaysian mothers. 

To do otherwise would be a betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of thousands of Malaysian mothers and their innocent children.

Zaid Malek is director, Lawyers for Liberty.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow