On day 1 of the new Pakatan Harapan government, I noted that within the wide promise made to the most powerless section of our society, there was an actionable kernel – to set in place the laws, administrative procedures and outreach that might make it possible to begin addressing the problem of statelessness among Malaysian Indians. Instead of reporting, as I had hoped, on the state of development of the requisite policy/administrative instruments, this new government has offered relief to that portion of the stateless Indian community that has the least to benefit and whose citizenship has the least consequences for the Malaysian polity. 3,407 Indians above 60 years of age will be given citizenship on the basis of their meeting the requirements for permanent residents to become citizens. The new Prime Minister is reported to have said “We promised this in our manifesto. It took us some time, but we will stick to our promise and issue them a blue IC and they will be regarded as a citizen.” I am sorry to say it, but this is mere eyewash, bunkum even! … and a sign, that for the wretched of our earth, it seems to be Malaysian business as usual Barisan = Harapan … dosen matter bah!
Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) advisor N Surendran is reported in Malaysiakini to have countered that what we need, instead of this expediency, is a review of procedures for granting citizenship. I present the report on his words in numbered points for clarity and efficacious communication –
- “The policies, operating procedures and methodologies must be thoroughly reviewed and restructured by the new government.
- It is the inflexible and unnecessary demands for non-existent documents, evidence and witnesses insisted upon by the ministry and NRD (National Registration Department) which are responsible for both creating and perpetuating the problem of statelessness in Malaysia.
- We must reach out to the thousands of stateless persons who have difficulty dealing with the bureaucracy and stringent procedures of the NRD.
- Most stateless persons are those who already qualify to be citizens by ‘operation of law’ under Article 14 of the Federal Constitution, but are denied citizenship because they have either inadequate or no documents, are abandoned or adopted children, or their parents’ marriage was not registered.
- 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”.
Regardless of how far down this road of reform the new Home Ministry has gone or failed to go, these are the honest and pertinent terms in which the 100 day reckoning of the ‘STATELESS INDIANS PROMISE’ should have been couched. And you know what my dear Pakatan Harapan? … you can still come clean! In fact you must!