A child is automatically entitled to Malaysian citizenship as long as the father is a citizen, regardless of his or her mother's citizenship or the parents’ marital status, said Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today.
In a statement, LFL advisor N Surendran said blaming the issue of stateless children on parents who failed to register their marriages was thus irresponsible and contrary to the Federal Constitution.
Surendran was responding to Deputy Home Minister Mohd Azis Jamman, who said in Parliament yesterday that the onus is on parents to ensure their children possess the necessary documentation for citizenship applications to prevent them from becoming stateless.
"If you dare to get married, dare to register, dare to bear responsibility," he had told the Dewan Rakyat.
According to Surendran, the ministry's approach is similar to the one adopted by the previous BN regime, which he said, in the first place, led to a large number of stateless children nationwide.
"The marital status of the parents is irrelevant under the Federal Constitution. By virtue of the Second Schedule Part 2 section 1(a) of the constitution, as long as one of the parents of the child is Malaysian, the child is automatically a Malaysian citizen.
"The situation remains the same even where the mother is a non-citizen, because the child has fulfilled the requirement under section 1(a) that at least one parent is a citizen. Section 17, which states that in relation to an illegitimate person, a reference to his 'parents' must be regarded as a reference to his mother, does not apply to section 1(a).
"In short, irrespective of the mother being a non-citizen and the marriage being unregistered, the child is automatically entitled to Malaysian citizenship as long as the father is a citizen," he said.
Thus, the government’s stance on the matter was a gross misunderstanding of the law, he added.
Adopting the approach suggested by the Home Ministry would be akin to punishing an innocent child for simply being illegitimate, he noted.
"The position taken by the Home Ministry is not only against the law and the constitution, but also against the Pakatan Harapan manifesto which recognised the problem of statelessness in Malaysia.
"We urge the government to reverse its position and grant citizenship to all children born in Malaysia, one of whose parents are Malaysian citizens, irrespective of whether their parents’ marriage was registered."