KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 22 — The Court of Appeal’s decision today to reject the Malaysian government’s bid to delay issuing citizenship documents for Malaysian mothers’ children born abroad would enable such families to have temporary relief and have a shot at reunion, advocacy group Family Frontiers said.
The Malaysian government had applied to stay or to suspend the High Court’s September 9 order that required the issuing of citizenship-related documents — such as identity cards and passports — for such children.
The government had made the stay application in order to preserve the status quo — where Malaysian mothers’ overseas-born children do not have such citizenship-linked papers — until the Court of Appeal hears and decides on the government’s appeal against the High Court’s September 9 decision.
The High Court had on September 9 decided that Malaysian mothers who married foreigners should be able to automatically pass on their Malaysian citizenship to their children born overseas instead of having to go through an application process that takes years of waiting, since Malaysian fathers married to foreigners could automatically pass on their citizenship and since the Federal Constitution disallows gender discrimination.
And as part of that September 9 decision, the High Court had ordered the government to issue documents that would give effect to the recognition that children born outside of Malaysia to Malaysian women are also automatically entitled to Malaysian citizenship under the law.
At the Court of Appeal today, a three-judge panel unanimously rejected the government’s stay application.
The Court of Appeal’s decision today means the government would have to start issuing citizenship-related documents to such children if applications are made for such documents ― even before the Court of Appeal hears the appeal on March 23, 2022.
Family Frontiers — who had with six affected Malaysian mothers filed the lawsuit — explained the impact of the stay rejection for the overseas-born children of Malaysian women.
“The Court of Appeal’s decision would mean that Malaysian mothers can now obtain identity documents for their overseas-born children, consequently putting an end to these children’s struggles with regards to access to fundamental rights — this includes affordable healthcare and education, and the ability to live with their family without the fear of separation,” it said in a statement today.
Family Frontiers president Suri Kempe, who was also a Malaysian mother representing the group as part of the lawsuit, said there will now be temporary respite.
“The Court of Appeal’s decision has given Malaysian mothers and their children temporary relief from a longstanding problem that has caused them extreme anxiety, distress and trauma.
“It demonstrates the Court’s recognition of the urgency and importance of children being granted their national identity documents immediately, so that Malaysian families have a chance to be reunited,” she said.
Family Frontiers also cited the response from a divorced single mother, Li Li, who is living alone with her child in Italy, and how she looks forward to being able to permanently return to Malaysia without having to be afraid of being separated from her child.
“My kid prays every single night for her citizenship as we have been waiting since 2017. I am so thankful that my child can finally obtain Malaysian citizenship and be welcomed into my tanah air so we can return for good with no more fear of separation,” the Malaysian mother said in response to today’s court decision, using the Malay words for homeland or home country.
Beyond today’s court decision, Family Frontiers also urged the Malaysian government to drop its appeal against the High Court ruling which recognised that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers are entitled to Malaysian citizenship.
“In the spirit of #KeluargaMalaysia, we call upon the Malaysian government to withdraw its appeal against the September 9, 2021 High Court decision and implement the judgment immediately.
“This is in line with the Government’s commitment made on September 24 to amend the Constitution to strengthen the September 9 decision of the Kuala Lumpur High Court which will bring relief to many Malaysian mothers, both overseas and in Malaysia,” it said.
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