I only found this out a few days ago and its blatant unfairness is positively chilling.
If you are a Malaysian male and you marry a woman of a different nationality, your child is a Malaysian no matter where he or she is born. No questions asked. It is, apparently, a right.
Unfortunately, the converse does not hold which is to say the children of Malaysian women born overseas do not qualify automatically as Malaysian citizens. They can apply but they should not hold their breath because, this is a privilege and not, apparently, a right.
While the Federal Constitution guarantees citizenship to children bornoverseas to Malaysian fathers, it is silent on children born overseas to Malaysianmothers. Consequently, there are a significant number of Malaysian women married to foreigners who are unable to secure Malaysian citizenship for their overseas-born children.
OK, I should disclose my interest here. Our only child, Raisa is married to an Austrian and lives in Vienna. I’d humbly plead that any child of hers be granted Malaysian citizenship as well.
I’d argue that it’s the child’s right and they can make up their minds when they’re 18.
That would be the ideal situation.
But – and there is always a “but” -there is a famous paradox that goes something like this: all things being equal, all things are never equal. And it was Lee Kuan Yew who once commented sourly about life “never being fair.”
Even so, our Constitution does say something about “all people” being equal under the law. And while people in the West had to fight for the right of women to vote, Malaysians didn’t have to, getting that power from the word go: independence itself.
So let’s not regress where this is concerned. It’s been fifty-six years since Malaysia was formed without bloodshed, in peace and relative harmony. And God knows we in Peninsular Malaysia, especially, have regressed in ways that Tunku Abdul Rahman could not have foreseen.
In many ways, we are a mess of contradictions guilty of no little hypocrisy. We refuse to grant citizenship to the overseas-born children of Malaysian women yet we do not see the absurdity of granting permanent residence to an Indian citizen accused of hate speech and money laundering in his own country.
And we appear a to be a land of promise only before a general election.
Remember the rule of law?
How, in all good conscience, can we expect China to agree to extradite the fat felon back here to face justice when we refuse to honour India’s request that we do the same to that permanently-residing beardo?
I once interviewed Dr Mahathir in 1987 just after his Ops Lallang crackdown and he justified it by saying that Malaysians could not handle too much democracy or something to that effect. “When I first began, I tried to be liberal and look what happened?” he asked. The implication: he’d had to clamp down or there would have been trouble.
Fast forward 32 years later and we seem to have learnt nothing.
Except there is a new weapon out there which is capable of great good and, just as equally, great mischief in the hands of opportunists bent on causing trouble.
After May 9 last year, Malaysians were granted a precious gift – that of freedom of speech. May God give us the prudence never to exercise that in a hateful manner.
And lest we forget, there are these Malaysian women who ache for their children to possess the citizenship they do. It is a small step for the Home Ministry but a gigantic leap homewards for the children.