Press Statement 

Serious concern regarding the “Mega Mydaftar” campaign 

8 May 2017

Lawyers for Liberty refer to MIC president Dr. S Subramaniam’s recent announcement that the government plan to embark on the “Mega Mydaftar” campaign to help members of the Indian community who do not possess identification documents.

We view with serious concern the campaign that is led by MIC, a government political party and targeted solely at the Indian community when previously, similar campaigns were done but with little improvement to the plight of the stateless Indians.

Further, such registration campaign does not address the rights of these stateless people as Malaysian citizens as they are oftentimes registered as foreigners or other non-citizen status that require them to be naturalised or registered under ‘special circumstances’. Therefore their status as citizens is not acquired by operation of law or ‘as of right’ but through the discretion of the authorities and subject to their requirements.

Many of these people have the requisite genuine and effective link with Malaysia (through birth, habitual residence, descent, marriage etc.) but have been unable to acquire citizenship due to discrimination, neglect, and excessive and burdensome requirements.

Statelessness affects a wide spectrum of communities and individuals with diverse backgrounds – not just people of Indian origin. Some of the people most vulnerable to the ill effects of statelessness include those from indigenous tribes, children whose parents’ have unclear citizenship status (e.g. refugees and migrants), abandoned children, unregistered marriages and even some segments of the Chinese community.

While any political party can support the registration process, it should not be made the lead of the campaign, in order to avoid any speculation or impression that Malaysian citizenship is beholden to one’s political affiliation. This concern is made all the more acute given the timing of the campaign announcement prior to the impending general election.

The right to citizenship is universally recognised as a fundamental human right and it is a pre-condition to enjoying other basic rights and services. Citizenship is granted in accordance with the Federal Constitution and it should never be granted or linked to the support of any political party.

Lawyers for Liberty call on the government to take steps to rectify the serious statelessness problem affecting all Malaysians. The campaign should be institutionalised and implemented by the National Registration Department and supported by other government agencies rather than at the behest and whim of any political party. Most importantly, these stateless cases should be registered under the proper procedure for citizens, through a simplified application procedure and documentation requirement, instead of placing an unrealistic burden on them to prove their citizenship.

Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty