Sarawak MPs urged to vote against “regressive amendments” removing protection for stateless natives, if tabled

From left: Siah, Chiew, Peter John and Shepherd participating in the discussion at the special screening of the 'Abang Adik' movie organised by LK at a cinema on Feb 25, 2024.

By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, Feb 25: Lawyer Kamek (LK) supports the open letter to the federal cabinet by the Malaysian Citizenship Rights Alliance (MRCA ) dated Feb 20, 2024, urging the government to pause regressive amendments to the Federal Constitution and to release the Green Paper of the Draft Citizenship Amendment Bill.

Its director, Simon Siah, said that these proposed changes, in their current form, deviate from the core principles of justice, equality, and respect for human dignity that are fundamental to the country’s ethos and advancement.

Siah said that one of the proposed amendments aims to grant citizenship to children born abroad to Malaysian mothers and should be lauded.

However, he lamented that in their current form, five other proposed amendments threaten to introduce regressive measures that could disenfranchise certain segments of our population.

He opined that foundlings, abandoned children, and the children of Stateless Malaysian Permanent Residents would lose their right to citizenship.

Siah further said that the amendment bill seeks to remove the constitutional protection against statelessness, especially for elderly stateless persons, children born pre-marriage, adopted stateless children and other vulnerable individuals.

“Additionally, foreign spouses of Malaysian men are at risk of statelessness if their marriage ends within two years of acquiring Malaysian citizenship.”

“Lastly, stateless children would have shorter timeframes to apply for citizenship through the citizenship by registration provision, exacerbating their challenges,” he told reporters after participating in a discussion with the audience on the amendment of constitutions and the special screening of the ‘Abang Adik’ movie organised by LK at a cinema here today.

Siah further lamented that if the proposed amendments are maintained as they are, the Madani Government would go down in history as the worst government for the protection of foundlings and abandoned children.

“From the time of first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman to the formation of Malaysia, no other government has attempted to remove this protection against statelessness, knowing full well that the provision is there to protect the most vulnerable members of our society—abandoned children,” he said.

Siah further stressed that Sarawak would no doubt be the first in Malaysia to feel the brunt of this amendment because many native communities living in the most remote areas in Sarawak still do not have Malaysia citizenship despite having lived, grown up and called Sarawak their home since before the formation of Malaysia.

“Therefore, LK is calling for all Members of Parliament from Sarawak to vote against the proposed amendment if indeed it is tabled next week,” he said.

Siah elaborated that LK together with MRCA, also strongly urge the cabinet to promptly disclose the draft bill as a Green Paper and make it available for public consultation.

“A Green Paper would enable stakeholders to consider policy options to address proposed regressive amendments thoroughly, avoiding rushed decisions.”

“Without access to the precise wording, the public cannot fully assess the implications of the proposed changes that will affect their lives,” he added.

Siah believed public engagement is vital in a democracy, ensuring all stakeholders can provide input on matters affecting their rights.

“Transparent and inclusive consultation processes demonstrate the government’s commitment to accountability and respect for citizens’ voices,” he said.

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) Commissioner Sarawak Dr John Chiew and social activists Peter John Jaban and Karen Shepherd were also present. — DayakDaily