K.C. Vijayan – Straits Times Indonesia
The father of a Hong Kong-born teen is seeking a judicial review after the boy’s bid to renounce his Singapore citizenship was turned down.
The 16-year-old – a Singapore citizen since 1996 – has been told to complete his national service and then apply again to renounce his citizenship within a year of his 21st birthday. All citizens are required to undergo national service on reaching 18, unless they are granted a deferral.
This now appears to have emerged as a test case on whether a minor who is a citizen by registration has the right to renounce his nationality.
At issue is whether the Singapore Constitution was correctly interpreted when the boy’s bid to renounce his citizenship was turned down, according to court papers filed by his father, Cheung Sin Wai.
The case is expected to focus on Articles 124(1) and 124(2) of the Constitution, which relate to citizenship, for clarification by the courts.
Cheung initially named the commissioner of the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the commander of the Central Manpower Base, which manages national service enlistment, as the defendants. But this was later changed, and the Attorney-General is now the sole defendant.
A pre-trial conference was held in the High Court on Tuesday.
Cheung and his wife, who have three children, became Singapore citizens in 1995. His son was registered as a citizen a year later, but in September 2010, he left for Hong Kong with a year-long exit permit.
Three months later, he notified the ICA that he was renouncing his Singapore citizenship, and returned his passport and identity card. But he was informed that this would not be possible until he completed his national service.
In August the same year, he applied for Chinese citizenship but was told approval was subject to renouncing his Singapore citizenship.
That same month, he received a passport issued by Britain, enabling him to exercise the rights of a citizen of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
In October last year, he made a fresh attempt to renounce his Singapore citizenship, and when this failed, his father filed his suit for a judicial review.
In court papers filed, Cheung claims the proper interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Singapore Constitution allows his son to renounce his citizenship.
His lawyer Lee Chin Seon is expected to explain his client’s position when the case goes to trial.
Cheung is seeking a court declaration that his son is not liable for national service.
He claims the requirement to do national service does not apply to a citizen by registration, and especially in the case of a minor.
Cheung, 56, argues that until his son reaches 21, he will not have all the rights and privileges of citizenship, and therefore cannot be held liable as a full citizen till then.
His two older children are Singapore citizens and the family lives there.
Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times Indonesia. To subscribe to Straits Times Indonesia and/or the Jakarta Globe call 021 2553 5055.