I REFER to Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s statement at Dewan Rakyat on Oct 29, in which he said that a child’s citizenship is determined by the parents’ marital status and citizenship (“No automatic citizenship” — NST, Oct 30).
As a former registrar of citizens at the National Registration Department in Petaling Jaya from 1969 to 1975, I wish to clarify the provisions in the Constitution relating to citizenship.
Under the Merdeka Constitution that came into force on Aug 31, 1957, all persons born in the Federation of Malaya on or after that date became citizens by virtue of Article 14 (l) (b) based on the principle of jus soli(citizenship by being born in the country). The parents need not be citizens.
However, to prevent birds of passage from acquiring Malayan citizenship by birth, Article 14 (l) (b) was amended by the Constitution (Amendment) Act 1962, which came into force on Oct 1, 1962. The effect of this amendment, is that only those born in the Federation (and later, in Malaysia) on or after that date, became a citizen by birth, if, at the time of birth, at least one of the parents is a citizen or a permanent resident. For practical purposes, a permanent resident is taken to mean the holder of an identity card.
The parents need not be citizens. As long as one of them is a permanent resident, the child is a citizen. The parents’ marital status has no bearing on the citizenship status of the child.
Therefore, to determine the citizenship status of a child, the criteria are:
THE child must be born in Malaysia; and,
ONE of the parents at the time of birth of the child must either be a citizen or permanent resident.
It is imperative that the provisions in the Constitution are not given a narrow interpretation and so deny lawful citizens of their birthright.
S. Sundareson, Petaling Jaya, Selangor NST Letters 31/10/2014