Cabinet: Constitutional amendment to grant citizenship to children born overseas to Malaysian mums

PETALING JAYA: The Cabinet has agreed with the proposal to amend the Federal Constitution to enable children born abroad to Malaysian mothers to gain automatic Malaysian citizenship.

In a joint statement, Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and Law and Institutional Reform Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said on Friday (Feb 17) said that the amendment is expected to be tabled in the current Dewan Rakyat meeting.

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They said the Cabinet had agreed on the proposal to amend the Federal Constitution, in particular Section 1(1)(d) and Section 1(1)(e) of Part I in the Second Schedule, and Section 1(b) and Section 1(c) in Part II of the same Schedule.

“The proposed amendments to the Constitution pertain to changing the term ‘father’ in Parts I and II of the Second Schedule with the term at least one of the parents to allow Malaysian mothers to get their parental rights according to the Constitution,” they said.

In addition, amendments to Part III of the Federal Constitution would undergo a more detailed study by a committee formed under the Home Ministry. It would be presented to the Cabinet after the amendment proposal is finalised by considering the views of stakeholders.

“This is in line with the unity government’s commitment to recognising equality for women and men and removing discrimination against women in Malaysia, and overcoming weaknesses that arise in citizenship provisions.

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“The government wants to solve the high backlog of cases for affected Malaysian women who had applied for their children’s citizenship in a process that takes too long and is unreasonable, and to give a precise definition and avoid providing a definition different from the court’s,” they added.

They also hoped the amendments would provide a clear definition of the law and avoid differing definitions in the courts.

The ministers added that after the Cabinet decision, children born abroad before or after Malaysia Day will be eligible for citizenship under Clause (1), Article 14 of the Federal Constitution, as long as one of their parents is a Malaysian, they said.

On Sept 9, 2021, Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Justice Akhtar Tahir ruled that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers married to foreigners are entitled by operation of law to be citizens of Malaysia.

In his decision, Justice Akhtar held that the word “father” in Section 1(b) must be read to include the mother.

However, on Aug 5, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 majority decision, overturned the decision.