PUTRAJAYA, June 10 — About 70 Malaysian mothers have submitted applications for their children who were born overseas to be recognised as Malaysian citizens and are still waiting for such recognition by the Malaysian government, advocacy group Family Frontiers said today.
Bina Ramanand, the lead coordinator of Family Frontiers, said some of these mothers had come today from as far as Johor and Penang to the National Registration Department’s headquarters here to seek for updates on their overseas-born children’s citizenship applications filed months ago.
These Malaysian mothers had in the past few months filed new citizenship applications using “Form D” or under Article 14 of the Federal Constitution — a process previously only available to Malaysian fathers with overseas-born children — following a High Court order.
While the Federal Constitution’s provisions expressly provide only for Malaysian fathers to automatically pass on their citizenships to their children born overseas to foreign mothers, the High Court in September 2021 had decided that this was discriminatory to Malaysian mothers,
The High Court had decided that the children — of all six Malaysian mothers in the lawsuit and all other Malaysian women facing a similar situation — should also be entitled to Malaysian citizenship if they followed the similar procedures for Malaysian fathers with overseas-born children, and also ordered the authorities to issue citizenship documents to recognise the Malaysian mothers’ children as citizens.
The Court of Appeal in December 2021 rejected the government’s bid to stay or suspend the effect of the High Court order pending an appeal and is set to decide on June 22 on the government’s appeal against the High Court order.
Bina today said only the six Malaysian mothers who were part of the lawsuit were able to get citizenship documents for their overseas-born children, while the other mothers numbering at least 70 are still waiting for their children’s Form D citizenship application to be approved.
“70 submissions here that we know of but there are other mothers who have not contacted us, not everyone contacted us, so there are many who have submitted overseas or in JPN who are not part of Family Frontiers members,” she said when indicating there could be more mothers waiting.
“So now we are waiting for the other mothers because the court order clearly stated that mothers in similar situations should follow the same process as fathers, so many of them have submitted their documents, the earliest was December 31, 2021, so we are wondering why it should take so long for the processing,” she said.
“The children of the six plaintiffs got their citizenship documents. The court order mentioned other mothers as well, so that should be followed,” she said.
“All the mothers came to check their status, and many of them were told that it will take six months, we do hope in six months they will get the citizenship and not be told this document is less or that document is less or rejected,” she said.
Bina said the Malaysian mothers want a standardised procedure and process with more transparency, noting: “They should be informed exactly how long it will take, not say after six months we will inform you. It should follow the same process as fathers.”
On the other hand, Family Frontiers had previously said that Malaysian fathers who apply using the same Form D for their overseas-born children would get confirmation of the children’s Malaysian citizenship status almost immediately.
Bina said some Malaysian embassies overseas do not even give the Form D to Malaysian mothers — a crucial document that is required for Malaysian mothers to even start the process of seeking for their children born overseas to be recognised as Malaysian.
Gathered today at the NRD’s Putrajaya headquarters were Family Frontiers with about 15 of the affected Malaysian mothers also having come to check on their children’s citizenship application status and to also highlight their plight.
At the end of the gathering, they shouted “Mana Dokumen Kami” (Where are our documents) and “Saya Juga Anak Malaysia” (I am also a Malaysian), slogans which are part of the Malaysian mothers’ campaign to finally have their overseas-born children accepted as Malaysians.
The Malaysian mothers held up placards showing how many days it had been since they applied for their child’s citizenship under the “Form D” process, with some having waited 77 days, 98 days, 109 days, 120 days and 152 days respectively.
In other words, their ongoing wait has ranged from two months to five months, with the Malaysian mothers who today checked on the status of the citizenship applications being merely told that it was still in progress or still being processed.
Bina highlighted the multiple struggles that Malaysian mothers have been facing merely for having given birth to children overseas, noting that it is not always possible to return to Malaysia to give birth as their children could also be born earlier.
Some Malaysian mothers return to Malaysia due to the need to take care of their elderly family members or when their marriages do not work out, but face the additional prospects of being separated from their overseas-born children who are in Malaysia only on temporary social visit passes that have to be renewed periodically.
“This is a very difficult situation because it is also a threat to the family unity and that means it is rupturing the family unity and families have to get separated due to this discriminatory law, so we just hope overseas-born children of Malaysian women will soon be able to obtain citizenship,” she said, noting that some of the Malaysian women also have children who are stateless due to their birth overseas and Malaysia’s non-recognition of them.
“These mothers are waiting for the outcome and to have a positive outcome for this and to get citizenship on similar basis as Malaysian men,” she said, adding that the laws have to be reformed to ensure the best interests of Malaysian mothers’ children as some may have difficulty accessing facilities such as enrolling in national schools.
Ummal Remiza Khaja Mohideen, a Kedahan mother based in Kuala Lumpur, said the Malaysian mothers’ overseas-born children also face other issues beyond access to education or health due to their current status as non-citizens in Malaysia.
“This is the reality that we are facing, we have anxieties,” she told reporters, asking what would happen to the children if their Malaysian mothers are not around as in the case of the late Sabeena Syed Jafer who died while still waiting for her overseas-born children to be recognised as Malaysians.
“Luckily enough her children are all grown up, but how about children who are underage when their mothers are not there. This is the reality I think many people overlook, because nobody can say anything about death, anyone can go anytime, so what is the condition of these affected children?” she asked.
“So now we are mothers standing here actually fighting for the rights of our children, we are not saying about foreign spouses, we are talking about the rights of a vulnerable human being, a child who has been discriminated,” she said, noting that mothers may be able to tolerate if the discrimination is against themselves but would not be able to tolerate their children being discriminated.
She said Malaysian mothers will not stop fighting for their children to be afforded the basic human rights of having citizenship.