PH home ministry resisted citizenship efforts, says activist

Citizenship reform efforts in the time of the Pakatan Harapan government were stymied by the home ministry at the time, a women’s rights activist said today.

Ivy Josiah.

(FMT) – The activist, Ivy Josiah, defended the PH-led minister for women, family and community development against criticism for an apparent lack of effort to ensure citizenship for foreign-born children of Malaysian women.

Josiah said she had been involved in an equal citizenship campaign in 2019 and the women’s ministry was very supportive and they had meetings with the minister, then Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and her deputy Hannah Yeoh.

She said there appeared to be a pattern where the women’s ministry is committed to gender equality whereas the home ministry was always resisting. This was also the case with the current government led by Ismail Sabri Yaakob, she said.

The PH-led women’s minister was criticised by human rights lawyer Latheefa Koya on Saturday. She said the ministry had had the opportunity to resolve the issue by amending relevant laws but “that wasn’t done. In fact, nothing was done”.

However Josiah said “we knew the women’s ministry was having difficulty in pushing for this. It is unfortunate that Latheefa doesn’t know how much work the women’s ministry did on this issue.”

The High Court recently ruled that children born overseas to a foreign father and a Malaysian mother are entitled to citizenship by operation of law.

An appeal against the ruling has been filed by the home ministry. However, the current minister for women and family affairs, Rina Harun, has welcomed the court decision.

Charles Santiago.

Klang MP Charles Santiago of DAP said it was true that PH missed the opportunity to resolve the issue but it was unfair to blame the women’s ministry.

He said he and many NGOs made representations to the home minister then, Muhyiddin Yassin, as the matter came under his purview. “It was a failure of PH but at the time, the Bersatu people weren’t interested in reforms. We were being undermined,” he said.

Bersatu, under Muhyiddin, was then part of the Pakatan Harapan government. The party later broke away and formed the Perikatan Nasional government in partnership with Umno and PAS.

Santiago said PH must now regard the reforms as non-negotiable matters, and take it up with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.