Pleading with our MPs to Uphold Child Rights in Malaysia

By Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Consultant Paediatrician, Child-Disability Activist

Dear Esteemed Members of Parliament

All of you, as our lawmakers, would be fully aware of the proposed amendments to the Federal Constitution that will affect citizenship rights.

The origin of these amendments is good, which was the proposal to give Malaysian mothers the equal right to confer citizenship to their overseas-born children. However, some of the other proposed amendments are regressive and will harm children.

Fortunately, the cabinet has listened to the huge groundswell of concern from civil society and removed one amendment that relates to the right to grant citizenship to foundlings.

But a number of other regressive amendments remain that will render some children stateless. These include children born to permanent residents, non-citizen spouses married to Malaysians who get divorced within 2 years of acquiring citizenship will be rendered stateless, and the shortening of the citizenship pathway from 21 years to 18 years.

Hence, we plead with you, we implore you, to reject the regressive amendments and decouple the proposal. We should support and keep the right for Malaysian mothers to confer citizenship to their overseas-born children.

It is sad that a government that is supposed to represent the people and listen to them, has become hard of hearing, has lost its compassion for children and plans to further undermine the rights of children. Attempts by civil society to discuss concerns with the government over many months have been rebuffed.

Our nation has failed to live up to the meaningful, guiding principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). We continue to have policies and legislation that render children stateless and force them to live lives that are marginalised and in poverty.

While we are vocal about child rights and suffering in other lands, let us not forget to protect children in our own beloved nation. By our neglect we deny children a basic identity, education and a future; we keep them trapped in a lifetime of poverty. We need to support all children in Malaysia and not discriminate against some children. Investing in all children benefits all of us and builds our nation.

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