Government cannot defend NRD’s flagrant violation of the Constitution by seizing cancer patient’s NRIC
12 April 2023
We refer to the recent report that the National Registration Department (NRD) has seized the NRIC of a 65-year-old woman in Sarawak suffering from cancer, which the Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution defended by claiming that investigation has shown that the individual is an Indonesian citizen.
The seizure of the NRIC of the individual was without a doubt and unlawful and unconstitutional act by the NRD to which there can be no justification. Irrespective of whatever “investigation” that purportedly was conducted on this case, they have no authority to summarily confiscate anyone’s NRIC. It is a serious abuse of power as it an act that deprives victims of their citizenship and their rights attached to it.
The Federal Constitution has clearly stipulated that there are procedures in place that must be complied by the government if they intend to strip anyone of their citizenship.
Article 27 of the Constitution directs the government to give notice in writing to the person stating the reasons as to why their citizenship will be stripped and inform them that they have a right to have the case be referred to a committee of inquiry. If it is so referred, then an inquiry has to be conducted and a report made which the Federal Government must consider before they decide to deprive anyone of their citizenship.
Above and beyond that, Article 26B states that no person shall be deprived of their citizenship if it results in their statelessness.
The fact that the Home Minister made no reference to such a process having been conducted means that the government is defending a blatantly unconstitutional act by the NRD. The NRD itself has confirmed that the investigation is still ongoing, which logically means that the process under the Constitution has not even begun. Thus, the individual retains their citizenship until and unless an order for its deprivation is made in compliance with the Constitution; yet her NRIC was taken away and her rights are now affected, most worrying of which was her right to get treatment for cancer at government hospitals. This could result in her death due to denial of treatment.
The Home Minister has a duty to ensure that the NRD abides by the law, yet has opted to give out a callous remark, justifying an indefensible action to a woman who is literally dying and now made to suffer even more due to the actions of the NRD. It is nothing short of cruel and heartless.
We strongly urge the government to return the woman’s NRIC to her as it is her right to hold it until and unless an order of deprivation of citizenship is made in compliance with the Constitution. Furthermore, we also urge the government to immediately investigate and take action against anyone in the NRD implicated in the decision to confiscate the woman’s NRIC in flagrant disregard of the Constitution.
Lawyers for Liberty