Sarawak party criticises Putrajaya’s appeal of citizenship ruling

Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh is pictured at the Sibu Court House. — Borneo Post pic

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KUCHING, Sept 22 — Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) today said it is appalled and deeply disappointed by the federal government’s move to appeal against a High Court’s ruling that recognised citizenship rights to children born abroad regardless of the Malaysian parents’ gender.

Party president Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh said the party views the move as a big setback towards greater justice and equality for the Malaysian women.

“We are totally against any form of gender discrimination and fully support equal rights for women,” he said in a statement.

He said he concurs with the family support group Family Frontier’s statement that by appealing against the court decision, justice had been delayed not just to Malaysian women, but their children and their extended families as well.

Wong, a former Sarawak’s second minister of finance, said the federal government’s action sent a clear message that it is in favour of the continued discrimination and marginalisation of Malaysian mothers.

“Instead, the federal government has chosen to perpetuate this gross injustice that has plagued Malaysia since independence, the weight of which women from Sarawak have also borne for 58 long years,” he added.

He called on de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar to explain his contradicting stand as he was among the first to find the High Court landmark decision “illuminating” but then went along with the Attorney General’s Chambers’ to appeal against the very same ruling.

“This only serves to highlight the many inconsistencies within the federal Cabinet and the glaring weakness of this government’s ability to protect women and children,” Wong claimed.

Separately, Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) Women chief Kho Teck Wan urged the federal government to heed calls by Sultan Ibrahim of Johor and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to not appeal against the court’s ruling.

She said the federal government’s decision to file the appeal not only continues the suffering of some parents, but also discriminates against women and puts a child’s future in jeopardy.

“Children do not choose which country and what parents they will be born into. The unlucky ones end up as stateless and are denied proper education and healthcare, which subsequently cause adverse impact to their prospect and potential as an adult,” she said.

Kho added some even ended up becoming a burden to society.

“I, therefore, would like to concur and reiterate the wishes of our party, NGOs and Johor’s Sultan, and urge the federal government to drop the appeal,” Kho said.

In a landmark decision made on September 9, Kuala Lumpur High Court had ruled that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses should automatically be conferred Malaysian citizenship.

The court ruled that Article 4(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution together with the Second Schedule, Part II, Section 1(b), pertaining to citizenship rights, must be read in harmony with Article 8(2), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.

Justice Datuk Akhtar Tahir ruled the word “father” must therefore be read to include mothers, and that their children are entitled to citizenship by operation of law.

Despite the strong public rebuke, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin appeared to have defended the move to appeal, telling Parliament dual citizenship was prohibited here.

Hamzah also suggested granting the children citizenship cannot be done “arbitrarily.”

Sultan Ibrahim, in a statement supportive of the call, said the Malaysian government must respect the spirit of the ‘Malaysian Family’ espoused by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, as he called on the AGC to withdraw the appeal against the court decision immediately.

The family support group Family Frontiers and six Malaysian mothers had filed a legal suit in December 2020 against the decades-old law they called discriminatory.