Crime & Courts

28-year-old man remains stateless after court decision

KUALA LUMPUR: The Johor Baru High Court denied citizenship to a 28-year-old stateless man recently.

Judge Datuk Seri Shamsulbahri Ibrahim in his judgment said the man failed to fulfill the provisions in the Federal Constitution to qualify for citizenship by operation of law.

In 2012, the man's adoptive parents went to the National Registration Department (NRD) to complain that their application to renew the man's passport was rejected by the Immigration Department.

The rejection was due to doubts about the man's appearance, as he looks Indian compared to his adoptive parents, who are Chinese.

During interrogation by the NRD investigation and enforcement department, the couple admitted that the man was not their biological child, as he was given to them by his Indian mother on Oct 30, 1996, when he was then four-months-old.

The man's birth certificate was made available with the help of the couple's friend who was paid RM1,000 as a token.

The court said there was no evidence produced by the applicants that the man was born in Malaysia nor at least one of his biological parents is a citizen or permanent resident during his birth.

"It is my view that this court must not simply presume that the man was born in Malaysia and his parent's citizenship status without an iota of evidence as a basis for the presumption.

"The application also failed to establish that the man was an abandoned child as there was neither any police report lodged that he was found exposed or abandoned nor any report as such to the NRD.

"There is not even a single information about the man that can be a guide to the court in determining whether he was genuinely an abandoned child or otherwise let alone his biological mother.

"All important particulars about him during his birth were either false or doubtful," Shamsulbahri said in his judgment dated May 24.

The judge said there was no doubt that the introduction of Section 19B of Part III of the Second Scheduled to the Federal Constitution aims to grant citizenship by operation of law to newborn children found abandoned in the country.

"Nevertheless, the court has the responsibility to prevent this sacrosanct concept from been exploited by individuals to legitimise illegal activities, such as taking a child from elsewhere and later making him or her a Malaysian citizen through adoption."

The court said the couple's claim that they did not know the citizenship status of their adoptive son's biological parents does not automatically mean that the child is stateless.

The court said as the couple admitted that they failed to trace their son's biological parents, it was impossible to determine his lineage, which would enable him to be conferred citizenship by descent.

"I sympathise with the man as this is not his fault.

"The door to be a Malaysian citizen is not yet closed to him as he may acquire citizenship by naturalisation under Article 19 of the Constitution," said the judge.

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