PUTRAJAYA, March 6 — The Federal Court today adjourned its hearing of five cases involving stateless individuals who were born in Malaysia and are seeking Malaysian citizenship.
Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, the lead counsel for two of the cases, told the judges he was unwell and requested for adjournment.
The Federal Court allowed his request, while also deciding to reschedule the hearing of the three other cases as the issues raised would be the same.
The five cases will now be heard on April 2.
The five-man Federal Court panel is chaired by Chief Justice Tun Md Raus Sharif and includes Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop, Tan Sri Hasan Lah, Tan Sri Zainun Ali, Tan Sri Aziah Ali.
The two cases where Sri Ram is the lead counsel involve a 20-year-old whose birth parents are unknown and was adopted by Malaysian parents, and an eight-year-old boy who was born to a Malaysian father and Thai mother that were not legally married when he was born.
The Court of Appeal last year rejected their citizenship bids by saying they should have also shown proof that they are not citizens of other countries, and the duo now want the Federal Court to decide if the legal principle of “jus sanguinis” — where citizenship depends on the parents’ citizenship — should be used to determine if a Malaysia-born person can be a citizen.
Two other cases represented by lawyers Raymond Mah and Datuk Cyrus Das involve two boys: 17-year-old boy P* and 16-year-old C*, both with unknown birth parents and who were separately adopted by two Malaysian couples.
For these two cases, the Federal Court will hear and decide on seven questions of law, including whether a Malaysia-born child adopted by Malaysians would qualify for citizenship under either Section 1(a) or Section 1(e) of the Federal Constitution’s Second Schedule’s Part II (having at least one Malaysian parent at birth time or not being born a citizen of other countries); and whether “parents” in Section 1(a) refers to a child’s “lawful parents” instead of biological parents.
The other questions include whether the post-adoption birth certificate — which typically names the adoptive parents as the child’s parents — will be conclusive evidence of the parents’ identity when deciding the child’s right to citizenship under Section 1(a), and whether the pre-adoption birth certificate — that has been surrendered for cancellation and replacement by the post-adoption birth certificate — can still be used by the Registrar-General of Births and Deaths Malaysia or the courts to determine who the parents are.
Citing Section 2(3) of the Second Schedule’s Part II, the lawyers also want the Federal Court to decide if a Malaysia-born child who did not become a citizen of any other country within one year of their birth date would become a Malaysian under Section 1(e); and whether the child had to prove both the parents’ identity and that they are Malaysians or whether it was enough for the child to show that he or she did not become a citizen of any other country within one year of their birth.
The seventh legal question for the Federal Court to answer is whether the Federal Constitution’s Article 15A is an “alternative relief” that will bar someone from going to the courts to seek citizenship recognition.
Article 15A is on the federal government’s special powers to register anyone below the age of 21 as citizen.
For the fifth case involving a child born to a Malaysian father and Papua New Guinean mother who later became a married couple after her birth, lawyer Ranee Sreedharan is representing the 13-year-old girl, M*, in the bid to secure her citizenship status at the country’s highest court.
The Federal Court will decide on three questions of law for M’s case, with the third question sharing similarities with the seven legal questions, namely whether it was enough for a person to show that he or she did not become a citizen of any other country within one year of their birth.
*The actual names were not used due to privacy reasons.