NOT EASY TO ACQUIRE CITIZENSHIP
TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad alleges that the Forest City Project, a joint venture between Country Garden and a company controlled by the Sultan of Johor to build four artificial islands on reclaimed land at the southern tip of Malaysia, would lead to 700,000 Chinese from mainland China staying in Johor Baru, and eventually acquiring citizenship if they stay long enough. His view is in his blog Chedet under the heading “Forest City”.
Under the Federal Constitution, a person, whose father at the time of his birth is a citizen of the Federation, is entitled to citizenship by operation of law. If the birth took place in Singapore after Sept 16, 1963, it would have sufficed if either of the parent was a citizen of the Federation, otherwise it must be the father only.
The place of birth is immaterial; the child of a foreigner who gives birth in Malaysia does not acquire citizenship by operation of law. Citizenship through operation of law cannot be revoked unless it was obtained by fraud or the person possesses double citizenship.
Citizenship may also be acquired by a foreign woman whose husband is a citizen of the Federation with the marriage registered according to Malaysian law. The practice is after two years of marriage, or after she has given birth to a child, she may apply.
A child born during marriage (as opposed to children from the former foreign husband, if any) shall automatically acquire citizenship by operation of law. A foreign man whose wife is a citizen of the Federation does not acquire citizenship under the operation of law but may apply for permanent residency in Malaysia.
A permanent resident of not less than 12 years may acquire citizenship by way of naturalisation. For a Malaysian who is married to a foreign husband, it may be wise that she gives birth in Malaysia to enable the child to acquire citizenship by operation of law.
The birth of the child outside Malaysia would not entitle him or her to citizenship under the operation of law if at the time of the birth, the child’s father was not a citizen of the Federation (with exception of Singapore after Malaysia Day). Under special circumstances, a child under 17 years old may be registered as citizen.
The acquisition of citizenship by naturalisation or registration is not a right, nor automatic, and also entails the need to take the oath of allegiance to the Yang di Pertuan Agong, hence conditional at best. Applicants must show good character and adequate knowledge of the Malay language. Malaysia also does not allow double citizenship.
A person who acquires citizenship by naturalisation or by registration may be deprived of their citizenship if they are disloyal or disaffected towards the Federation or during war, compromised his loyalty by associating with the enemy, or without approval from the Federal Government served in any office, post, employment under the government of any country in respect of which an oath, affirmation or declaration of allegiance are required, or has been away for more than five years not due for the service of the Federation and had failed during the five year period to annually register at the consulate of the Federation his intention to retain his citizenship.
Dr Mahathir’s concern as far as the acquisition of citizenship by foreigners, therefore, is substantially unfounded. Forest City is also designated as free tax area and ownership of units is believed to be freehold not leasehold. The Johoreans themselves in Johor Baru are by and large on leasehold. However, the unregulated influx of foreigners may create political, social, economic, cultural and religious imbalance.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR DR ABDUL RANI KAMARUDIN
Lecturer, Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyah of Laws, International Islamic University Malaysia
Fruit sellers hope the government will cut exports to keep prices down.