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!
With with just 55 days left on the STATELESS INDIANS CLOCK, 20 or so promising Indian lawmakers from Pakatan Harapan held a press conference to renew their election promise to resolve the ‘stateless Indians’ problem in 100 days from coming into office. According to Malaysikini reporter Alyaa Alhadjri they held a press conference on the 25th of June 2018, with about 55 days on the clock … and proposed that the previous government’s, “Socioeconomic Development of Indian Community Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department (Sedic) be retained, as part of the government’s commitment to the community promised in its election manifesto”. In a seperate article Alyaa notes that PKR vice-president Xavier Jeyakumar told the press he is confident that the government will strive to resolve Indian citizenship issues within its first 100 days in office. Come on Annai can you really do it! What are action items … what is the timeline for this mammoth project … Please publish it so we can believe you … or at least be smart and let the 100 day deadline you set yourselves in your election promise to the most deprived sector of Malaysian society fade into the background noise along with the rest of the deadlines which will be forgotten in context of the post-election ‘realization’ of financial limitations brought about by the alleged malfeasance of the previous Barisan government! It seems that there are ‘promising Indians’ in every walk of Malaysian public life!
100 DAYS! Good Morning Malaysia this is Day one of a new Malaysian era! While I celebrate our change of government as an unprecedented expression of democratic praxis, I feel obliged to note that, in the midst of the euphoria, the clock is ticking on promises made. Writing as an Indian Malaysian, I want to remind the new government in power that as they the opposition they gave themselves 100 days to solve the ‘Stateless Indians’ problem. I was skeptical about this promise, which I suggest is, at best, hyperbole for a much less expansive promise – to set in place the laws, administrative procedures and outreach that might make it possible to begin addressing the problem stateless among Malaysian Indians. So while I hold that the promise was unscrupulous in its overreach, within it there is a discernible and actionable offer made to the Indian community. This offer, it seems, has now been accepted. And consideration has been given in the form of the mandate to govern. It is now up to Tun Dr Mahathir and his presently crystallizing Pakatan Harapan cabinet to deliver on this contract – on this Indian aspect of the new social contract. The 100 day clock is ticking!
As a Malaysian living abroad, I am troubled by the electoral scenario unfolding at home. We have to choose between, on the one hand, a leader of government whose family and associates have been implicated in criminal proceedings on the global stage on a scale that threatens to beggar our nation. On the other, as challengers, we have two former political combatants, who between them are responsible for sowing the nearly all the seeds of our contemporary dysfunction. Indeed these two have accused each other heinous offences – one of corruption on a scale that, if adjusted for inflation would approach that of the current debacle, and the other of homosexual acts that are abhorrent to both the law and the official religion of the land. Nevertheless, choose we must and I too have a favorite in the race. All this is, however, just context for the kernel of my post – as as much as I am a Malaysian abroad, I am also an Indian!
What I really want to raise here is my disappointment at not hearing the issue of Indian statelessness being raised sufficiently loudly at this possibly, however marginally, opportune moment for Indians in Malaysian politics. As far as I can measure this is the gravest Indian problem that needs to be addressed by our polity. What else is there that we need as a community while our brethren remain stateless – equality as citizens, favourable quotas, strengthened Tamil language education, projects and contracts, all these possible Indian asks seem hollow to me, while there are those of us who have for generations been left stateless on mere technicalities. As lawyer Eric Paulson has put it “While these people of Indian origin are not denounced as non-citizens by the authorities, they are nonetheless stateless as they are not considered citizens under the operation of law.” If indeed, we Indians are still a force of consequence in the national equation, then this is what we should want, what we should demand. Before we worry about anything else Indian Malaysians should fight for the status for our kin. I venture to suggest that even financial corruption on the scale alleged and believed by many to have come to pass in our nation today, pales in comparison to the moral bankruptcy of a set of communal concerns that does not foreground and prioritize this matter.