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THE Social & Economic Research Initiative (Seri) think tank said it was worried about the fate of abandoned children, especially in Sabah who are at high risk of becoming stateless in their homeland.

“Seri supports the amendments to the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2024 that enables Malaysian mothers’ overseas-born children to be entitled to automatic Malaysian citizenship.

“However, Seri is also concerned about the amendment of other sections of the Citizenship Bill (RUU) over the fate of abandoned children,“ it said in a statement, today.

It said the amendment to Section 1(a) of Part II of the Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution results in children of parents without citizenship but who are permanent residents in Malaysia being not granted citizenship automatically.

“We believe that this proposed amendment will cause more children to be stateless due to the status of their parents who are permanent residents,“ it said.

Another regressive amendment, said Seri, is the replacement of the term “by operation of law”, with citizenship by “registration”, which will cause newborn children who are found or abandoned (foundling children) to no longer be entitled to automatic citizenship.

“We are aware of the Home Ministry’s explanation that the amendment of the application continues through the registration process to avoid fraud following many previous cases of document and identity fraud.

“However, following the registration process which is generally known to have to go through a bureaucracy that consumes a long period - raises questions about the guarantee of the applicant obtaining citizenship,“.

Non-citizen status prevents access to education, employment opportunities and health services. Imagine the gap that will widen if these opportunities continue to be denied to those who are capable of becoming productive people for the country.

“Specifically in the state of Sabah, the absence of a clear boundary in differentiating between the unqualified and stateless groups raises the question of whether this amendment protects the stateless, especially in Sabah.

“We are particularly worried that the amendment risks increasing the number of stateless people in Sabah, “ added Seri.

Seri has suggested that a Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) be established to ensure constructive discussions representing all stakeholders including Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that fight for citizenship rights.

“These views must be taken into account to ensure that there is no oppression and discrimination, considering that debate on Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2024 will only take place in the next parliamentary session in June,“ it added.

PKR vice-president, Nurul Izzah Anwar was recently appointed as the new chairman of the Seri think tank.

In a statement, Seri said Izzah’s appointment would help strengthen the think tank’s commitment to fighting inequality and other social issues.