Sabah, Sarawak reps not consulted on amendment to citizenship bill

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Mary Anne making a point during her talk on the proposed citizenship amendment.

KOTA KINABALU (April 2): Sabah and Sarawak people’s representatives are claiming that they were not consulted on the amendment to the citizenship bill, said Advocated for Non-Discrimination and Access to Knowledge (ANAK) Founder and Executive Director, Mary Anne K. Baltazar.

“Sabah has constantly been mentioned as the reason for the regressive amendments, however, most Sabah MPs are not aware of the details of the amendments,” she alleged.

Mary Anne cites that there are five regressive amendments to take away rights that have been enshrined in the Malaysian Federal Constitution that is a backward step and will put children at risk of statelessness.

“After extensive lobbying and engaging with the government, two of these have been dropped, but three still remain,” she said to the Borneo Post after her talk on Proposed Citizenship Amendments in the Malaysian Federal Constitution on Monday.

The two that have been dropped are Section 19B and 1(e).

“The three include lowering the maximum age of registration for citizenship and also removing the right for permanent residents in Malaysia to be able to pass on citizenship to their children. This is problematic for Sabah due to the lack of access and because the process of registration takes many years, and in the recent case of Wong Kueng Hui from Keningau, his journey took him 15 years which included him needing to prove his citizenship in court. Sabah also has many cases of citizenship issues and PR holders among indigenous communities, especially those living in the interior due to the lack of access,” she said.

She added that for Sabah and Sarawak, many citizenship provisions were put in place during the formation of Malaysia through the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) to safeguard against statelessness through the MA63 which was put in place in good faith when Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya formed the nation together.

“However, many Sabah leaders informed us that they were not aware of the details of the amendments, and the Sabah public as a whole are clueless about what is happening. Sabah and Sarawak should be consulted properly, before such big amendments to the Federal Constitution are made,” she said.

She added that ANAK is very open to engaging with any Sabahans, especially Sabah MPs and assembymen to share their concerns and to explain in detail how the amendments would affect Sabahans.

She said that ANAK is also part of the Malaysian Citizenship Rights Alliance (MCRA).

Mary Anne also said that the amendments proposed in the Federal Constitution to allow Malaysian mothers to pass on citizenship to their children born overseas is very much welcome, since it is only right for Malaysian mothers and a good way forward against gender discrimination in the country.

She urged the leaders from Sabah and Sarawak to question why they were not consulted on the bill which would have a huge adverse impact on the lives of many rural and indigenous people in both states, including natives holding red identification cards.

She also warned that taking away the rights in the Federal Constitution will increase the number of people who can be at risk of statelessness.

She said Sabah and Sarawak leaders should, at the very least, be aware as much as possible of this issue and engage all sides to have a better picture on how it will affect the people.

“They should engage with NGOs, especially those part of the MCRA (Malaysian Citizenship Rights Alliance) who have been working on this issue for many years and have been extensively working on it since we found out about the proposed amendments, so that they can understand how the implementation will affect people on the ground,” she said.