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Ex-home minister cautions against dual citizenship

Syed Hamid Albar said that Malaysia could not adopt a dual citizenship policy as it was still in the process of building a strong national identity.

PETALING JAYA: A former home minister has dismissed calls for the government to adopt a dual citizenship policy, saying that it does not align with the country’s ongoing nation-building efforts.

Syed Hamid Albar said Malaysia was still in the process of building a strong national identity as the country’s multidimensional context, characterised by diverse ethnic dynamics, had posed challenges in its political system.

“I think the consensus among the government and the majority of the people is that we need to build (our national identity) up (for) a longer time before we can go looking at dual citizenship,” he told FMT.

Syed Hamid added that the lines pertaining to loyalty would get blurry for the individual. “What happens if your (adopted) country and your country of origin, you know, are at odds with one another?”

He was asked to comment on the calls from the Malaysian diaspora in the United States urging Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to consider formalising dual citizenship.

Anwar reportedly said the administration would discuss the matter further and assess its implications if implemented, as it would involve a major policy decision.

Currently, Malaysia maintains its practice of single citizenship. Article 24 of the Federal Constitution states that any citizen who acquires citizenship in another country may have their Malaysian citizenship revoked.

Meanwhile, the Family Frontiers group said Malaysian mothers were still waiting for the government to table the constitutional amendments to grant automatic citizenship to overseas-born children.

“This is an issue that has persisted for far too long and caused hardship and adverse impact for the affected mothers and children,” said its research and communications director Patricia Low.

‘Potential unconstitutionality’

While several provisions in the Federal Constitution could be amended to allow dual citizenship, lawyer Joshua Wu said it might run afoul of the basic structure doctrine and be deemed unconstitutional.

Wu said a potential basic structure doctrine could be the Reid Commission Report 1957, which emphasised loyalty to the nation as a core concept of single citizenship.

“One could also argue that single citizenship was the intention of the framers of the Federal Constitution. It forms part of the basic structure of the Federal Constitution,” he added.

Constitutional law expert Wan Ahmad Fauzi Wan Husain said the 1948 Federation of Malaya Agreement, despite being superseded by the 1957 version, could also be referred to in rationalising some of the present Federal Constitution’s enduring principles and elements.

“The second schedule of the 1948 agreement states that anyone who regards the federation, or any part of it, as their genuine home and the centre of their loyalty should have a common form of citizenship,” he said.