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Home Minister: It was govt’s proposal to amend Federal Constitution on citizenship, not my decision

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — The proposal to amend the Federal Constitution was a decision made by the government, Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail has said.

He said based on this decision, the Home Minister’s work started.

“It is not Saifuddin Nasution’s (decision), but the Home Ministry and the government’s decision.

“So, I presented the paper to the Cabinet for policy approval. In the Federal Constitution, if you want to amend matters that touch on citizenship, there are also principles.

“The Rulers have to give the ‘green light’, the Sabah state government has to agree and no obstacles with the Sarawak state government. That is clear the Federal Constitution and the Home Ministry had presented to the Conference of Rulers, the governments of Sabah and Sarawak,” Saifuddin said in an interview with Mingguan Malaysia.

He recounted how it all started, citing the case that involved Suriani Kempe’s family.

In the Federal Constitution, Article 8 (2) states that men and women are equal and based on this Suriani took the case to court.

“The High Court had then said based on the argument, that the father in this sentence also includes the mother. Suriani won and then the government appealed.

“This time the Court of Appeal said the father is the father and the mother is the mother. So Suriani lost and the case is now at the Federal Court level.

During this period the government proposed to amend the Federal Constitution regarding citizenship, he was reported saying.

According to Saifuddin, the Conference of Rulers had agreed to do several things, firstly there must be a control element.

“In addition, never give citizenship to those who are not entitled to it and thirdly for this amendment to be made by the government, it is necessary to conduct a comprehensive study.

“The Conference of Rulers also in this matter remains and plays an important institution. Acting on the advice of the Conference of Rulers, the Home Ministry then established a research team at the governance level.

“What is controversial based on the feedback now is regarding abandoned children. In this matter, an abandoned child is found, and the presumption we make is where was he born? His birthplace is where he was found. Second, he must be presumed to have been born to a permanent resident mother,” he said.

Explaining further, Saifuddin said back in 1963, it was reasonable to presume that the mother was born here because there were no Rohingya refugees and other foreigners (here).

“Now we find these. Some were born in the hospital and they ran away,” he added.

Responding to criticisms on this, Saifuddin was reported saying that if there are amendments to registration, a few new things will be included in this amendment and the government said that foundlings can get citizenship through registration.

“If someone discovers or learns of a birth according to the Birth Registration Act, he is required to report to the police, take the child to the hospital and thirdly report to the Welfare Department.

“When everything is completed, then the National Registration Department (NRD) can write that the child is a citizen,” he was quoted as saying.

However he said if the child does not have an umbilical cord, it is not a considered an abandoned child.

If the age is 10 or 11 years old, the authorities will process the case under Article 15A of the Federal Constitution.

Which meant that, cases involving children processed through registration of citizenship applications were for adopted children and illegitimate children, children under care.

Previously, Saifuddin said the procedure for citizenship application under Article 15A was approved in 2020.

This includes a shortened application process period from one year to three months for registrations done at the NRD.