Malaysians will be waiting with bated breath on the outcome of the committee set up to study citizenship for children born to Malaysian mothers overseas as the 6-month time frame ends in May 2022

Yesterday 8 May 2022, Mother’s Day was celebrated in a big way with florists’ elbow deep in weaving magic and creating bouquets of love, gratitude and sacrifice and reunion dinners with loved ones after a 2-year hiatus because of the pandemic to celebrate mothers in Malaysia.

I anticipated a statement of sorts by the Prime Minister Ismail Sabri on his Mother’s Day greeting in acknowledging and recognising the hard work, indomitable spirit, unmatched perseverance, unlimited and unconditional care and love by a mother to everyone around her – including her fur babies.

I thought that he might say something about a pledge, a commitment to Malaysian mothers who wait in anticipation everyday for a glimmer of hope and a way out from this labyrinth of legalities and paperwork just so that their children born overseas will be conferred a Malaysian citizenship.

Alas, that was not the case. There was no statement by the Prime Minister nor the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development Rina Harun as guardians and custodians for the rights and welfare of children and mothers.

An FB message struck me hard yesterday on one of the definitions of a Malaysian mother. It read “a woman discriminated by her own country for not returning home to give birth after marrying a foreigner, also a 2nd class citizen”.

Malaysian mothers who gave birth to their children overseas live in constant anxiety, uncertainty, national identity of their children, their education, healthcare and to be protected under the rule of law in Malaysia. Why must they pray feverishly day and night for a positive outcome for their children born overseas to be called MALAYSIAN? And when fathers don’t have to go through that, why must Malaysian mothers suffer this way?

In a Malay Mail article last March this year, Malaysian mothers faced a pathetic 15% success rate in having their children born to non-Malaysian fathers overseas. What is the fate of the remaining 85%?

In a 1st December 2022 Parliamentary reply by Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar to Ramkarpal Singh DAP MP for Bukit Gelugor, the Council of Rulers on 23rd November 2021 consented that a committee be set up to holistically study proposed amendments to Article 14 of the Federal Constitution on citizenship for children born to Malaysian mothers overseas, on the status of adopted children and stateless or status-less children. The committee is predicted to table their findings to the Cabinet for approval and to the Council of Rulers for a royal assent on the matter after looking at best practices in other countries, consultations with stakeholders, analysing the outcome from consultations 6 months from the date of its formation in November 2021.

This means the committee should be tabling the report of their findings to the Cabinet by the end of this month leaving only 22 days left and to the Council of Rulers thereafter.

My sincere hope is for the Malaysian Government, headed by the Prime Minister Ismail Sabri and for Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi as the Chair of the committee to push for the needed reforms that will truly mean the world to the children and their mothers on being conferred the title as a Malaysian citizen.

Keluarga Malaysia will remain relevant if every single member of it is accorded equal rights – like fathers who can confer citizenship to their children born overseas as opposed to mothers who can’t.

As signatories to both the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and as a new member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) it would be crying shame if Malaysia still continues to turn a blind eye to the plight of Malaysian mothers who have their babies abroad not being able to called Malaysian and to put an end to all discriminatory practices against Malaysian mothers.

Don’t punish and victimise innocent children if our own house is not in order.

Kasthuri Patto
DAP Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs & MP for Batu Kawan
Media statement by Kasthuri Patto in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, 9th May 2022