Lawyers for Liberty views with disbelief Special Implementation Taskforce chairman Siva Subramaniam’s statement reported in Free Malaysia Today (“Ministry adds on to stateless problem”, 23 January 2013) that seemed to suggest that Prime Minister Najib Razak and the National Registration Department (NRD) were doing a good job in addressing statelessness affecting the Indian community while blaming the Home Ministry and to a lesser extent, the individuals affected.
This view is of course inconsistently bizarre as NRD is a department under the Home Ministry and implements policies decided by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. We are therefore at a loss as to how he can praise the Prime Minister when he is ultimately responsible for the citizenship policies and practices in the country.
The NRD is the government department responsible for ensuring all bona fide Malaysians are registered and issued with corresponding identity documents. The NRD instead of recognising these people of Indian origin, born and bred in Malaysia, as possessing genuine and effective link with Malaysia and having rights under the Federal Constitution including freedom from discrimination, the right to a nationality and equality – chose instead to perpetuate their statelessness by discriminating against them and placing an unrealistic burden of proof on them to “prove” their citizenship.
As the Sabah “citizenship-for-votes” scandal has shown, the Home Ministry and NRD have wide powers to simplify citizenship procedures and requirement although in that scheme, it had been exercised improperly and with ulterior motives.
There should not be any doubt that the Government and NRD have a serious lack of concern and care for these people of Indian origin and other stateless communities. There is no genuine effort to register the affected communities nor is there any special procedure provided to facilitate their registration despite knowing the historical inequities and the context of their present circumstances that have kept them stateless for generations.
The Special Implementation Taskforce chairman should know better than to blame the affected communities when he knows that the applications are usually hampered by administrative obstacles, burdensome requirements, gross delays and require repeated visits and interviews. Even then, these cases are rarely resolved despite fulfilling the general citizenship requirement and they are forced to continue living a precarious and wretched existence without recognition as citizens.
Lawyers for Liberty calls on the Government and NRD to take immediate and urgent steps to rectify the serious statelessness affecting these genuine communities, including by registering them under the proper procedure for nationals (as opposed to foreigners), simplifying the application procedure and documentation requirement, and undertaking mobile registration.
Lawyers for Liberty
23 January 2013