GEORGE TOWN: The recent Federal Court ruling that a 10-year-old boy born to a Malaysian father and a Filipino mother was not entitled to Malaysian citizenship has not only shocked many, but also evoked feelings of outrage and despair over the injustice done to the child.
It was reported that in the 4-3 verdict, the court dismissed the parents’ appeal to have their child registered as a Malaysian citizen as the boy was illegitimate at the time of his birth, and the parents were only married five months later.
The majority, comprising Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Rohana Yusuf, Datuk Vernon Ong, Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof and Datuk Seri Hasnah Mohammed Hashim, had ruled that the Federal Constitution stated that an illegitimate child had to follow the citizenship of the mother.
However, Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, along with judges Datuk Nallini Pathmananthan and Datuk Mary Lim Thiam Suan were of the view that fundamental liberties were always evolving and denial of citizenship was discriminatory as it violated the equality provision in the constitution.
According to Gerakan vice-president, Datuk Baljit Singh, the Federal Court’s decision was undoubtedly going to cause untold misery to the parents, not to mention the child who now not only faced an uncertain future, but also numerous hurdles in getting a proper education as he grows up and would be left out of national healthcare programmes.
The boy, who was born in 2010, was brought into Malaysia by his mother from the Philippines. His mother legally married his 55-year-old Malaysian father in February 2011, five months after he was born, and the family now lives together in Malaysia.
It was made clear in the court that the custody and control of the child had always been with his parents. However, the boy’s application for citizenship was not approved in September 2012.
“Reading about this case is certainly heart-breaking, and I would like to call on the government to look into this issue urgently. I once again reiterate that Parliament must interfere in this. We cannot rob a child of his/her future through no fault of theirs,” he said today.
Baljit said he supported the pledge made by Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin to raise the issue within the government and ensure the child could be granted Malaysian citizenship in accordance with Article 15(2) of the Federal Constitution.
“I cannot agree more, that while we respect the decision of the court, we also cannot sit back without expressing our disagreement in this case. The decision is clearly devoid of the spirit of justice and compassion.
“It is clearly time we reviewed outdated provisions like Article 17 of the Federal Constitution which inflicts untold damage to innocent people like this child. It must be noted that Malaysia is one in three countries that denied men equal rights in conferring citizenship to their children born out of wedlock.
“I would like to point out here that Malaysia is a member of the Articles of the Convention of the United Nations Association regarding the rights of children (CRC). One of the principles of this Convention is that ‘in deciding matters pertaining to a child, the Court shall primarily be concerned with what is in the best interest of the welfare of the child’.
“The Federal Court’s decision is definitely not in the best interest of the child,” he stressed.
It was reported earlier today that the couple would again apply to the government for recognition.