Pity the Stateless Children

I make this post in the wake of the recent policy reversal by the Malaysian government that requires adopted stateless children to the present of a passport in order to register for schooling. The specific issue of adopted children, cogent though it is in itself, brings forth the more general and much more important question of the state’s moral obligation to provide education to all children, stateless or otherwise, who live within its borders.

I ask the following questions, as an Indian and as a Malaysian –

First I ask, in the context if the statelessness of many Indians in our country, how can any person of Indian identity, holding Malaysian citizenship, fight for equality for themselves, without first embracing the fundamental struggle of our fellows who were brought to British Malaya as indentured laborers in the colonial political economy and then abandoned as the nation achieved independence? Do Indian Malaysians not have to fight for a parity of citizenship amongst out own people before we have the moral standing to question the injustices purportedly meted out to us in a Malaysia dominated by Malays who have, no doubt set their own postcolonial colonial reclamations and interests above all else in the nation.

According to the current UNHCR website ” the Malaysian Indian Community has faced challenges related to identity documentation and confirmation of Malaysian citizenship for many years” and in the estimation of Malaysian NGO, the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (DHRRA), there were 12,400 established stateless persons residing in West Malaysia as of the end of December 2017. The UNHCR notes that the documentation problems faced by stateless communities that might best be addressed by the Malaysian government at a policy level. (As an aside, the Pakatan Harapan GE 14 election campaign seems to have been hollow and hypocritical, if not downright dishonest in this its claims and promises on this matter)

Secondly, acknowledging that by no measure is the Indian community the only one facing the curse of statelessness, I ask, can any Malaysian meaningfully strive for anything else of moral worth in our nation, while accepting this denial of access to education to innocent children who are caught within its boarders, trapped in the administrative limbo of statelessness? Shame on Malaysian Indians when we cry louder about a lost Thaipusam holiday! Shame on all of us Malaysians who accept this situation!

Image: https://www.unhcr.org/ending-statelessness-in-malaysia.html

https://malaysia.news.yahoo.com/stateless-children-still-denied-access-015100401.html

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2021/01/21/mic-puts-heat-on-kedah-mb-over-cancelled-thaipusam-holiday/

Dari Pusat Tasek 24

Anwar Saji Lagu Tamil

The 12th series in the Koboi Project, ‘Dari Pusat Tasek”, consists of a pair of photographs titled Naan Anaiyttal and Rockin Cowboy taken in Kampung Indian Settlement, Batu Caves and on West Broadway, Mount Pleasant, Vancouver, respectively. Naan Anaiyttal presents the Koboi standing before a hoarding of 12 meter cutout of formerly jailed Deputy Prime Minister and Parti Keadilan leader, Anwar Ibrahim. The Koboi stands gesturing forwards and upwards with a green skinned mango in his right hand. The cutout was initially erected around the 2008 election but taken down in the context of political controversy and  fears that the structure would be vulnerable to weather conditions. It was put up again for the 14th general election which took place in May 2018. The Koboi photograph was taken in 2018.  Naan Anaiyttal is title of a song from M G Rmachandran’s hit film Enga Veettu Pillai (1965). MGR was of course to become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the song has populist and egalitarian theme. Anwar Ibrahim, in turn is, however tenuously, in line to be the next Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Naan Anaiyittal
Athu Nadanthuvittal
Ingu Ezhaigal vedanai padamatta
Uyirullavari oru thunbamillai
Avar kanneer kadalile vizhamattar

If I were to rule
and if it comes to pass
The poor will not suffer
As Long as they live they will feel no pain
They will not fall into the sea of tears

or in Anwar Ibrahim’s summation

​Kalau aku diberi kuasa
Tidak ada lagi yang derita
Tidak ada lagi yang miskin mengalir air mata

Dari Pusat Tasek 20

The Dari Pusat Tasek exhibition will run at Percha Artspace till 19 JAN 2020, ‘Dari Pusat Tasek” is the title of the 12th series in the Koboi Project, which includes a photograph titled  Naan Anaiyttal  taken in Kampung Indian Settlement, Batu Caves. It presents the Koboi standing before a 12 meter cutout of formerly jailed Deputy Prime Minister and Parti Keadilan leader Anwar Ibrahim. The Koboi stands gesturing forwards and upwards with a green skinned mango in his right hand. The cutout was initially erected around the 2008 election but taken down in the midst of a political/religious controversy about wastage/idolatry and fears that the structure would be a danger to the public in unfavourable weather conditions. It was put up again for the the 14th general election which took place in May 2018. 

The Koboi photograph was taken in 2018. Naan Anaiyttal is title of a song from M G Rmachandran’s hit film Enga Veettu Pillai (1965). MGR was of course to become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the song has populist and egalitarian theme. Anwar Ibrahim, in turn, is in line, however tenuously, to become the next Prime Minister of Malaysia next Prime Minister. Here are the lyrics of the song in Tamil, English, Malay and finally in Anwar Ibrahim’s own elegant translation –

Naan Anaiyttal
Athu Nadanthuvittal
Ingu Ezhaigal vedanai padamatta
Uyirullavari oru thunbamillai
Avar kanneer kadalile vizhamattar

If I were to rule
If that comes to pass
The poor will not suffer
As Long as they live they will feel no pain
They will not fall into the sea of tears

Kalau saya diperintah
Kalau ia menjadi kebenaran
Kaum miskin tidak akan menderita
Sepanjang hidupnya tanpa kecewa
dan tidak terjatuh ke lautan air mata

Kalau aku diberi kuasa
Tidak ada lagi yang derita
Tidak ada lagi yang miskin mengalir air mata

Naan Anaiyttal
Lyrics by Vaali

Dari Pusat Tasek 10

‘Bersama Abang’ (tak kisah lah siapa lebih tua!) R Viriya pengelola Imej besar Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim di Kampung Indian Settlement, Batu Caves 2008/2018

Happy to meet with R Viriya the sponsor of the gant Anwar Ibrahim hoarding at Kampung Indian Settlement Batu Caves. This hoarding is the subject of my Naan Aanaiyittal image for the Dari Pusat Tasek exhibition at Percha Art Space which continues till 5 January 2020 (EXTENDED TILL 19 JAN 2020). The 12.2m hoarding was first erected in front of Wisma Keringat with council approval in 2008. The hoarding, which had been sponsored through community fundraising, met with accusations of wastage and idolatry from UMNO and PAS politicians. It was taken down at the end of the permit period and kept in storage to be erected again near the Dewan Orang Ramai, Kg Indian Settlement in 2018 for the GE14. According to Viriya the image was painted by a visiting Indian cinema hoarding painter and it certainly conveys the aura of an Indian media SUPERSTAR! I took my koboi photo in 2018 after the surprise Harapan win in GE14.