Mar 05, 2021
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 22 — The current rules for stateless individuals to obtain citizenship is too complicated and mired in bureaucratic obstacles, a federal lawmaker said today.
Klang MP Charles Santiago said the tedious and confusing process of applying for citizenship discourages applicants from pursuing the matter.
“Why the lack of clarity or transparency? There is so much of complications faced by these people who have been trying for decades.
“A lot of people have applied but were turned down because they lack knowledge of what necessary documentations they needed to possess for the procedure,” he said during a roundtable discussion with NGOs on “Addressing Malaysian Statelessness” here.
One of the key promises made in Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto was to specifically solve the problem of ethnic Indian statelessness within 100 days of coming to power.
Santiago, however, said that the issue of statelessness transcended ethnic boundaries as the problem also persist in other ethnic communities, contrary to the present belief that Indians comprised most stateless individuals.
“Statelessness is not just exclusively to ethnic Indians, but a Malaysian problem.
“However, the federal government to date has yet to work on an effective mechanism to solve the citizenship registration of these individuals,” he said.
When asked how many stateless individuals were recorded in his constituency, Santiago said there were 1,017 individuals as of August 2018.
He added that stateless individuals also included minors, depriving them of formal education and affordable healthcare compared to their Malaysian peers.
“Should the basic rights of children be compromised? The rights of a child has to be recognised while the citizenship application process is ongoing.
“The child cannot wait for tomorrow if it is an emergency. There should not be a penalty imposed on the child,” he said.
In October, the Education Ministry had announced that stateless children will be able to enrol in government schools from next year and that it would simplify the registration process for for admission.
However, critics have expressed concern that there was no clear set of guidelines on the enrolment.
Charles then proposed for a streamlined Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the National Registration Department to speed up the application process.
“Maybe the government can upload the simplified version of the procedure on their website to spread awareness as there is no clarity whatsoever.
“The officers handling the process must also be briefed properly and the application procedure synchronised from national to district level,” he said.
According to non-profit organisation Development of Human Resources for Rural Areas president Saravanan M. Sinapan, there are about 13,000 stateless person in Malaysia registered with the NGO.
In August, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had announced that permanent residents above the age of 60 with red identity cards will be given citizenship status and issued with the blue card (MyKad) while those below 60 must fulfil all necessary criteria, including one parent must be a Malaysian and the person must be born in Malaysia.
However, there has been no clear directive issued to date to government agencies on the matter, leaving stateless individuals in a limbo.
By Kenneth Tee