Press statement issued by Wanita MCA National Chairman Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun welcoming the announcement by Home Minister Dato’ Seri Hishamuddin bin Tun Hussein Onn of a decision on the fate of applicants for Malaysian citizenship
Wanita MCA welcomes the announcement by the Home Minister Dato’ Seri Hishamuddin bin Tun Hussein Onn to decide on the application for Malaysian citizenship for four categories i.e. applicants for permanent resident status; stateless children; those without birth certificates; and those without documents who are residing in Sabah and Sarawak. Wanita MCA urges the Home Minister to expedite the Ministry’s decision on granting Malaysian citizenship on humanitarian grounds.
Citizenship for “stateless” Malaysians
Wanita MCA is deeply concerned that many residents born in Malaya before our country’s independence in 1957 have still not been issued with a blue MyKad. There are also cases of red MyKad holders who were born in 1965 during the separation of Singapore and Malaysia, and owing to technicalities, have not been granted Malaysian citizenship. These residents who call Malaysia home are loyal, law-abiding people who pay taxes and contribute to the nation’s development.
Equally worrisome are the scores of indigenous children living in rural areas in the Peninsular or in the deep interiors of Sabah and Sarawak, and children born in estate plantations whose births have not been recorded and no birth certificate issued. The women’s wing of MCA strongly urges the National Registration Department to expedite the documentation of births and issuance of Malaysian citizenship to these very deserving cases.
Right of stay of foreign spouses
A forum on foreign spouses in Malaysia on 5 Jun 09 organised by Wanita MCA raised awareness on long-standing challenges faced by foreign spouses, both foreign wives and husbands and also children of a foreign parent.
Foreign wives/husbands encounter challenges in terms of social visit pass, spousal visa, permanent residency and citizenship. The process to renew spousal visa and, application for residency and citizenship is often cumbersome as the visa needs to be renewed annually with the mandatory presence of the sponsor of a foreign spouse which is usually the Malaysian female or male citizen.
The mandatory presence of the sponsor is particularly problematic with cases involving domestic violence as women are placed at the mercy of their husbands where they may have to continue enduring violence in their home for fear of being deported. Compounding this would be if they have children who are born in Malaysia and the foreign wife would fear having to be deported without her children. Or in situations where their husband disappears or in the case of divorces, and they face real risk of deportation without a sponsor. Thus, foreign wives may be stranded here in Malaysia for she may not be able to bring home her children due to financial constraints and her children need to stay in Malaysia since they are Malaysia citizens.
Wanita MCA also urges the Home Ministry to look into the predicament faced by foreign husbands. Current consideration of a foreign husband’s citizenship application is based on a case-to-case basis at the discretion of the Minister. However, this right to citizenship is not stipulated for any foreign husband of a Malaysian. On the grounds of gender equality, a foreign husband’s application for citizenship should be considered on an identical basis as that of a foreign wife.
Citizenship for children
Children who are born to Malaysian women and her foreign spouse are not entitled to citizenship. This is because Malaysian women are not accorded equal rights to confer citizenship to her children if they were to be born outside of Malaysia (UNHCR 2002; WCC statement Apr 2008 citing New Straits Times, 25 Apr 2008). Evidently there is double standard where a Malaysian father could confer citizenship to his child(ren) irrespective of the place of birth.
Similarly in the case where the marriage between a Malaysian citizen and his/ her spouse is not registered in Malaysia, their child(ren) when born would be recorded as “non citizen” in the birth certificate.
Wanita MCA is of the view that all children whose one parent is Malaysian is entitled to citizenship whether born in Malaysia or overseas. Children born prior to the registration of marriage should also have equal rights to citizenship.
By improving the quality of family life of Malaysian citizens, this is consistent with the “1 Malaysia” vision, which is inclusive of non-Malaysian spouses.