Woman born in Pahang to refugee parents loses appeal to obtain citizenship

by BERNAMA 

PUTRAJAYA – A 35-year old woman born in a refugee camp in Cherating, Pahang to Muslim refugee parents from Cambodia lost her appeal in the Court of Appeal today to be declared a Malaysian citizen.

Azimah Hamzah’s appeal was dismissed by a three-member bench presided by Justices Datuk Seri Kamaludin Md Said, Datuk Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera and Datuk Gunalan Muniandy.

Justice Vazeer Alam who delivered the court decision virtually said the court agreed with the High Court judge’s findings in concluding that Azimah is not a stateless person.

He said the appellate court did not find any error in the findings of the High Court which held that Azimah had failed to establish the burden of proof that she was not born a citizen of any country, adding that there were some evidence that her father was a Cambodian national at the time of her birth.

He added that the two provisions in the Federal Constitution – Article 14 (1) (b) of the Federal Constitution and Section 1 (e) of Part II of the second schedule of the Federal Constitution which would enable a person to obtain Malaysian citizenship – did not apply to Azimah.

Justice Vazeer Alam said the court took note of the fact that Azimah’s parents and siblings have acquired Malaysian citizenship, and Azimah had another option to get citizenship by way of naturalisation under Article 19 of the Federal Constitution.

Azimah’s parents became permanent residents in November 1986 and obtained citizenship via Article 19 of the Federal Constitution in 2008. Her eldest sister who was born outside of Malaysia obtained citizenship through Article 15A of the Federal Constitution in 2008 under special circumstances while her four younger siblings became Malaysians after their parents obtain citizenship.

“We empathise with her predicament, nevertheless the door is not close. It is still open to her to apply for citizenship by naturalisation if the legal requirements are met to the satisfaction of the authorities,” the judge said.

Azimah, who wanted to be recognised as a Malaysian, contended that she is a stateless person with no Cambodian citizenship and had lived her whole life in Malaysia, did not succeed in her judicial review which was dismissed by the High Court in 2020 prompting her to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

She filed a judicial review application in 2019 naming the National Registration Department (NRD) director-general, the Home Ministry and the Malaysian government seeking various court orders including a declaration to be recognised as a Malaysian citizen and for issuance of MyKad or citizenship certificate.

Meanwhile, in another citizenship appeal, the same court bench ruled in favour of a 15-year-old girl, who was born to a Malaysian father and a Filipino mother after dismissing the appeal by the Home Ministry secretary-general, the NRD director-general and the government of Malaysia.

In that case, the appellate court upheld the High Court’s decision which granted citizenship to the Perak-born girl and ordered for a citizenship certificate and identification card to be issued to the girl.

Justice Gunalan, who read out the court’s verdict said the High Court judge Datuk Faizah Jamaludin was correct in her decision in May 2019 to grant citizenship to the girl by operation of law under Article 14(1) (b) of the Federal Constitution and ordered the NRD to issue her an identification card.

The girl’s application to obtain citizenship was rejected as she was considered illegitimate because she was born before her parents’ marriage was registered.

The girl’s father had made several attempts to apply for his daughter’s citizenship but was unsuccessful which prompted him to file a judicial review in 2016.