Support pours in for “stateless” Sarawak teen

Stateless children is a global phenomenon. – Reuters photo.

By Chew Lip Song

THE “stateless” teen who lost a landmark court battle to be recognised as a Malaysian citizen has received widespread sympathy, with a Sarawak minister calling for a “thorough study” on the court ruling.

State Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said the study was necessary before adoption laws were amended, if necessary.

“Let’s look at this case thoroughly and understand the issues involved in it first,” she said in a Borneo Post report.

Fatimah also expressed surprise why the boy did not apply for citizenship using the provisions under Article 15A of the Federal Constitution, which should grant the Home Ministry the authority to consider the special circumstances of applicants.

Meanwhile, Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) Women’s chief Kho Teck Wan has called on lawmakers to amend the citizenship laws so that every child born in the country will be granted automatic citizenship.

“I would like to urge our lawmakers to amend the citizenship law so it is not subjective but clear and direct that every child born in this country is granted automatic citizenship.

“In the case of the Sarawak born teenager or any case where a child is born with foreign mother, being stateless means he or she is unable to travel to obtain citizenship elsewhere as well.

“Many waited for years to obtain citizenship, while others failed just like the teenager.

“They are literally stuck in Malaysia while being denied all citizenship rights,” she said in as reported in Dayak Daily.

Kho added that she was disappointed to learn that a Sarawak born teenager has failed in his bid to be granted Malaysian citizenship noting that adoption and citizenship laws in Malaysia are complex and very restrictive.

Recently, the boy, identified only as L to protect his privacy failed in his bid to be recognised as a Malaysian citizen, as the High Court has ruled that his adoption by a Malaysian couple does not mean that he would then automatically be granted citizenship.

The teenager is currently stateless as he is not a citizen of Malaysia or any other country.

Born in 2002 in Sarawak to unknown biological parents, L was issued in 2017 a red-coloured birth certificate where he was registered by the Regional Registrar of Births & Deaths Sarawak as a “non-citizen”, instead of the usual green-coloured birth certificate for citizens.

He was then lawfully adopted in 2018 by his Malaysian parents in Sarawak under a state law known as the Sarawak Adoption Ordinance.

In March this year, the child had via his adoptive parents filed a lawsuit via an originating summons against three parties — National Registration Department’s director-general, the home minister and the government of Malaysia — in a bid to seek a declaration that he is a Malaysian, as well as for him to be issued a new birth certificate that records him as a citizen and to also be issued a MyKad.

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