KUALA LUMPUR (May 6): The High Court today quashed a bid by the Malaysian government to strike out a lawsuit by Malaysian mothers who want citizenship for their children born overseas.
High Court Judge Datuk Akhtar Tahir dismissed an earlier application by the government to quash the lawsuit as it was deemed “frivolous”.
The judge rejected the government’s argument and asked the government to justify its citizenship law as he said that there was clear discrimination against Malaysian mothers.
“There is an apparent discrimination against the mother and father of the child, but there doesn’t seem to be any justification for such discrimination,” he said in his judgement today.
Justice Akhtar also said that the articles in the Constitution make the non-justification and discrimination more “clear and glaring”.
The seven plaintiffs in the case comprise Family Frontiers president Suriani Kempe, Myra Eliza Mohd Danil, Adlyn Adam Teoh, Choong Wai Li, Ng Mei Mei and two others who seek to remain anonymous.
Lawyer Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar represented the plaintiffs, who are seeking a declaration that children born outside Malaysia and whose mothers are Malaysians be granted Malaysian citizenship.
The plaintiffs want the court to order all government agencies to issue citizenship documents, identity cards and passports to these children.
Malaysian law allows only fathers to obtain citizenship for their children born outside Malaysia.
Justice Akhtar said it was wrong for the government to contend that the lawsuit by the plaintiffs was frivolous because the plaintiffs had the locus standi or legal standing for the judicial relief they asked for in the originating summons.
Justice Akhtar, who said the government would have to file its affidavits of justification by May 27, 2021, also fixed June 30, 2021 for the hearing of the lawsuit.
The judge said today the plaintiffs are also allowed to add two more names to their lawsuit against the government, namely the home affairs minister and National Registration Department director-general, as defendants.
Joshua Andran, who is a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the government should be on the same side as the plaintiffs instead of opposing them.
Joshua said discrimination against women cannot, and should not, be allowed to continue.
“This is actually a case where the government and the plaintiffs should be on the same side. The legal and constitutional arguments made in cases like this can be complex. But for the benefits of Malaysia’s citizenry and to encourage civic mindedness, the net effect of what we are seeking in this case is simply equality between men and women in the crucial issue of the citizenship of children.
"Now, what is so offensive about that proposition? It is embarrassing that this is still happening in 2021.
“This form of discrimination has a real and tragic effect on the family unit as parents are often separated from their children,” he said.