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Hold off on citizenship law amendments affecting foundlings and abandoned babies, ex-deputy law minister Ramkarpal says

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, March 5 — Former deputy law minister Ramkarpal Singh has urged that the government either retract or at least defer recently proposed amendments to citizenship laws that could affect foundlings and abandoned children.

Speaking in Parliament, he said this step should be taken until further studies have been conducted on the matter.

“If the proposed amendments are approved, a foundling will no longer be entitled to automatic citizenship and have to go through a bureaucratic registration process and time-consuming yet no guarantees.

“Isn’t this a regressive move and clashes with the wish of the Madani government to introduce improvements to the law or law reforms?” he said when debating the King’s speech.

He also reminded the government of its promise to reduce the rate of statelessness in the country which would instead be worsened by this policy, adding that it would also contradict the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) goal to reduce the rate.

In the proposed constitutional amendments made last October, the Malaysian government plans to table amendments that would solve the citizenship problems plaguing the overseas-born children of Malaysian women with foreign husbands.

However, civil societies have since voiced their objections to the proposed amendments that would also affect children born out of wedlock to Malaysian men, stateless children adopted by Malaysian parents, foundlings or children who were abandoned (including those abandoned upon birth), and families with generations of stateless children born in Malaysia.

They said the proposed citizenship amendments that remove safeguards from becoming stateless would potentially keep vulnerable children in a cycle of statelessness.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have urged the Home Ministry to reconsider these amendments that “appear to be regressive and at offs with the best interests of the children involved”.

The amendment that would affect foundlings and abandoned children involves Section 19B, Part III of Second Schedule which sought to amend from citizenship by “operation of law” to citizenship by “registration”.

The effect of this amendment would be that foundlings and abandoned children will no longer be entitled to automatic citizenship.

“It does not make sense that and no logic for the government to propose an amendment that requires a foundling to register for citizenship identification.

“We need to take this seriously, because imagine if a baby was abandoned by its mother in a public area or the hospital, whereby the baby is found several hours later and is said to be a foundling, and we want to raise it here on whether the foundling will be given automatic citizenship?” he added.

The rumoured rate of foundlings being quite high in Sabah and Sarawak might have been seen as part of the reasoning for the government to propose such laws.

“There were several other reasons such as national security issues, but has the government conducted thorough studies to ensure that the amendment is able to prevent abandoned babies and has the government conducted studies, if yes, I would like to urge the government to present this during the winding up (later),” Ramkarpal said.