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Battle not over for Sabah-born’s citizenship bid
Published on: Saturday, February 19, 2022
By: Bernama
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Battle not over for Sabah-born’s citizenship bid
Wong Kueng Hui (Centre) and legal team. (Mohd Haijan Omar).
Kuala Lumpur: Wong Kueng Hui, a 27-year-old man born in Sabah to a Malaysian father and a mother believed to be non-Malaysian, will now have to continue his legal battles to be recognised as a Malaysian despite having won twice at the High Court and Court of Appeal.

Just last month, the Court of Appeal had in a majority ruling agreed that Wong is entitled to Malaysian citizenship. This was after Wong’s journey for the past 15 years in seeking to be officially known as a Malaysian.

The National Registration Department (NRD) director-general, home minister and Malaysian government have however filed a bid to pursue an appeal at the Federal Court, just two days ahead of the 30-day deadline to file such bids to appeal against Court of Appeal decisions.

Wong’s lawyer Mohd Haijan Omar confirmed to Malay Mail that the government’s application for leave to appeal was filed Thursday.

“Tomorrow (Friday) is the last day to file and they have filed it on 17.2.2022.

“Under the law the appeal to Federal Court is not automatic and procedurally they have to obtain leave to appeal first. This is the motion for leave to appeal. If they’re granted leave the matter will proceed for appeal,” the lawyer explained.

In other words, if the Federal Court allows the government’s application for leave to appeal, it would then proceed to hear the actual appeal against the Court of Appeal decision.

If the Federal Court does not grant leave to appeal, that would typically be the end of the matter, and the Court of Appeal majority ruling which affirmed the High Court decision would mean Malaysian citizenship documents would have to be issued to Wong.

This matter is however still in its early stages, with the government’s leave to appeal now scheduled for case management on March 21.

Born in Hospital Keningau, Sabah, Wong’s Sarawakian father died when he was 10 while his mother died when he was 17.

Since the age of 12, Wong had applied for citizenship recognition under the Federal Constitution’s Article 15A, which enables the Malaysian government to register anyone below the age of 21 as a Malaysian citizen under such special circumstances as it thinks fit.

The Malaysian government however rejected him twice, with his second attempt in June 2014 rejected via a February 2018 letter which he only received in March 2019. By then, he had turned 24 — which is past the age limit of 21 years old for Article 15A citizenship applications.

Wong then filed a lawsuit through a judicial review on June 20, 2019 to seek to be recognised as a Malaysian citizen.

The High Court on October 21, 2019 recognised that the Malaysia-born Wong is a stateless person if he does not have Malaysian citizenship, and granted four orders in his favour including recognising him as a Malaysian under constitutional provisions (Article 14(1)(b) and Section 1(e) of Part II of the Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution) and quashing the 2018 rejection of Wong’s citizenship application.

High Court judge Datuk Nordin Hassan had also ordered the NRD director-general to issue a MyKad identification card or a citizenship certificate to Wong to recognise him as a Malaysian citizen.

On January 19, Court of Appeal judges Datuk Che Mohd Ruzima Ghazali and Datuk Gunalan Muniandy in a majority ruling agreed with the High Court that Wong had fulfilled the conditions under Section 1(e) to be entitled to Malaysian citizenship, and ruled in favour of Wong.

Court of Appeal judge Datuk Azizah Nawawi, who had chaired the three-judge panel, gave a dissenting judgment when saying that Wong’s stateless status was yet to be proven.

Following the Court of Appeal’s majority decision last month in Wong’s favour, the High Court’s decision which included the issuing of the identity card was upheld and would have to be carried out, if the government did not pursue an appeal at the Federal Court.

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