Lawyers for Liberty fully supports the protest at the National Registration Department (NRD) in Putrajaya today by the Malaysian stateless, mainly from the Indian community for their lack of recognition and documentation as citizens.
One should not be distracted by the controversy over the actual number as statelessness is normally a hidden phenomenon and lacking in reliable data. Instead, there should be an acceptance that there should not even be a single stateless person in Malaysia.
These are stateless communities with genuine and effective link with Malaysia and they have rights under Malaysian and international laws and norms including freedom from discrimination, the right to a nationality and its accompanying rights and duties.
It would come as no surprise that the majority of those who protested are rubber plantation workers or their descendants who have lived a life of exploitation and continue to suffer from government neglect and institutionalised discrimination. Many continue to live in poverty, remain poorly educated and skilled, and with no means to acquire a better living.
As a consequence, some Indian children are not properly registered after birth, leading to the inability to acquire the MyKad although some may acquire the red permanent resident card.
Without the MyKad, these bona fide Malaysians have been denied the rights and services that ordinary citizens enjoy or take for granted despite being born and permanently residing in the country all their lives.
These rights and services include better education, health care, employment and business, housing and property ownership, social security, freedom of movement, political participation and voting right, holding a passport – all of which leads to serious social problems and to a cycle of statelessness that is handed down to the next generation.
There is a serious lack of concern and care by the government and NRD and they should be held responsible for the long suffering Malaysian stateless. 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.
These “problematic” applications are treated on a case-by-case basis, and they are usually hampered by administrative obstacles, burdensome requirements, long 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 the various 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.
Co-founder & Adviser
Lawyers for Liberty