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A member of Family Frontiers holds up a placard demanding equal citizenship rights for Malaysians at the Kuala Lumpur High Court April 27, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara
A member of Family Frontiers holds up a placard demanding equal citizenship rights for Malaysians at the Kuala Lumpur High Court April 27, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 20 ― The Malaysian government has failed for the second time in its attempt to quash a lawsuit by several Malaysian mothers seeking for their children born abroad to automatically become Malaysian citizens.

This follows a Court of Appeal virtual hearing held today on the government’s appeal to strike out an earlier judgment by the High Court to hear the merits of the case.

The unanimous decision was delivered by a three-member bench chaired by Datuk Hajjah Azizah Nawawi alongside Court of Appeal judges Datuk Abu Bakar Jais and Datuk Seri Mariana Yahya.

In welcoming the decision, the Association of Family Support and Welfare Selangor & KL (Family Frontiers) said this will allow the struggles of Malaysian mothers in their children’s citizenship rights to be heard at the KL High Court on August 24.

“Today the hurdle has been removed for Malaysian women to finally have the chance to seek justice in our courts,” Family Frontiers executive committee member Chee Yoke Ling said in a statement here.

A check on the Federal Court of Malaysia, Office of the Chief Registrar’s Cause List showed that a certificate of urgency has already been filed subsequent to the Appellate Court’s decision earlier today.

The High Court previously dismissed the government’s application to strike out the lawsuit in May, rejecting the government’s argument that the court case was frivolous. The same court also dismissed the government’s application to stay the proceedings of the lawsuit.

Instead of striking out the lawsuit before it could be heard in court on its merits, High Court judge Datuk Akhtar Tahir decided that he would hear the case on substantive issues before ruling on it.

Subsequent to the High Court decision in May, the government filed an appeal the following day at the Court of Appeal to overturn the High Court ruling.

In response, Family Frontiers said they were appalled and disappointed by Putrajaya’s decision, and accused the government of turning a blind eye to the plight of mothers whose children cannot return home to Malaysia as citizens and are struggling to be united with their mothers due to travel restrictions.

On December 18, 2020, Family Frontiers via its president Suriani Kempe and six other Malaysian women filed the lawsuit via an originating summons, seeking six specific court orders including declarations that Section 1(b) and Section 1(c) are discriminatory and in violation of the Federal Constitution’s Article 8. Article 8 disallows gender discrimination in any law against Malaysian citizens.

They also want a declaration that Section 1(b) and Section 1(c) be read harmoniously with Article 8(2) to include Malaysian mothers as a condition for children born abroad to be given automatic Malaysian citizenship.

Currently, Malaysian mothers who are married to foreigners have to apply for their children born abroad to have Malaysian citizenship, a process that is said to typically take years before the Malaysian government responds and with no guarantee that the child would become a citizen as the government can reject such applications.

In comparison, Malaysian fathers would be able to confer their citizenship to children who are born abroad, which means they are automatically recognised as citizens and do not have to go through the same arduous process of applying for citizenship.

Among other things, the Malaysian mothers in this lawsuit are also seeking a court order for all relevant government agencies including the National Registration Department, Immigration Department and Malaysian embassies to issue citizenship documents (including passports and identity cards) to children born abroad to

Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses.

The six Malaysian mothers are Myra Eliza Mohd Danil, Adlyn Adam Teoh, Choong Wai Li, Ng Mei Mei as well as two others whose names are being withheld for privacy purposes.

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