The Govt’s announcement on the citizenship issue does not resolve the problems of the majority of stateless persons
15 August 2018
We refer to the announcements by the PM yesterday, regarding citizenship problems involving Malaysian Indians.
Firstly, it is to be welcomed that 3,407 Indian applicants above age 60 who are currently red IC holders will be given citizenship.
However, the 3,407 cases are pending applications for blue ICs leftover from the BN era. They do not comprise the total number of Indians over age 60 who hold red ICs. The actual number of red IC holders over age 60 must be known to the Home Ministry, but that figure is not in the public domain.
In short, the granting of blue ICs to these persons will not resolve the statelessness of thousands of others who are not among the 3,407 applicants.
Most of the others have not put in any application in the NRD, or have given up applying after having been wrongly rejected due to BN policies. They now live in the limbo of statelessness.
Second, it was announced that those under age 60 who have resided 10 out of 12 years in Malaysia and are conversant in BM will be granted citizenship. But these are in fact the conditions for applications by foreigners for citizenship by naturalisation or registration laid down in Articles 16 and 19 of the Federal Constitution.
Hence, the second announcement above on persons under age 60 is largely irrelevant to resolving the problem of the stateless persons. This is because most stateless persons are those who already qualify to be citizens by ‘operation of law’ under Article 14 of the Constitution, but are denied citizenship because they have either inadequate or no documents, or are abandoned or adopted children, or the parents marriage is not registered.
To resolve the problem – the policies, operating procedures and methodologies of the Home Ministry and the NRD must be thoroughly reviewed and restructured by the new PH government.
It is the inflexible and unnecessary demands for non-existent documents, evidence and witnesses insisted upon by the Home Ministry and NRD that is responsible for both creating and perpetuating the problem of statelessness in Malaysia.
The problem is generational. Parents and grandparents have no identification documents at all or only red ICs although born and residing in Malaysia and entitled to citizenship; succeeding generations then remain stateless as they cannot obtain blue ICs due to the earlier generation’s problem.
This was the outcome of the deliberate policy of the NRD under the political direction of the BN regime.
The key to resolving the problem is thus reviewing the procedures and documents required, and reaching out to the thousands of stateless persons who have difficulty dealing with the bureaucracy and stringent procedures of the NRD.
In a nutshell, the announcements yesterday does not resolve the problem of the majority of stateless persons.
We urge the Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to urgently implement the necessary changes of policy and procedures in the NRD to comprehensively resolve the problem of statelessness in Malaysia.
Lawyers for Liberty