KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 — Children born out of wedlock here to a foreign mother are not citizens and should instead obtain identification documents from the latter's country, said the home minister.
Stressing that children born locally are not automatically citizens, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi cited a constitutional provision that states children born to unmarried couples would take on the mother's nationality.
"Therefore, a child born to women of foreign nationality out of wedlock, even if the man claimed to be the child's father is a Malaysian citizen, that child will still be registered as Bukan Warganegara (Non-Citizen).
"Therefore, it is the responsibility of both parents of the child to handle the personal identification document and travel document with the country of origin of the child's mother through the embassy of the respective country," he said in a March 21 written parliamentary reply.
Such identification documents are typically issued to citizens of a country.
In the same reply, Zahid said that it is mandatory under local laws for all births in Malaysia to be registered, adding that a child's guardian or either parent must go to the National Registration Department (NRD) to register the births of children who do not have birth papers despite being born here.
"In this matter, the Home Ministry wishes to emphasise that birth in this country will not cause an individual to automatically acquire Malaysian nationality," he said, adding that citizenship was the highest award that can be given.
He said several factors have to be taken into account to determine nationality status, including date and place of birth, citizenship status of the parents and whether the parents were married.
He cited Section 17 of Part III of the Federal Constitution's Second Schedule to say that children born out of wedlock would follow the mother's nationality.
Selayang MP William Leong had asked Zahid to state if there were any proposed measures to enable locally-born children without documentation or children born to foreign mothers to obtain citizenship.
In a separate March 20 parliamentary reply to Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Moktar Radin, Zahid similarly reiterated that birth in Malaysia does not automatically confer citizenship.
"In this matter, the burden of proving that one qualifies to be awarded Malaysian citizenship is a responsibility of an individual," he said.
The Court of Appeal had earlier this month decided that a six-year-old child born here to a Malaysian father and Thai mother out of wedlock had not proven that he is truly stateless and thus could not be a Malaysian citizen by operation of law.
Stateless children in such situations are in reality however sometimes unable to trace the foreign mother and do not in actual fact have foreign citizenship, and a lawyer has said that the NRD should be the one shouldering the burden to disprove claims of Malaysian citizenship for stateless children born here.