Lawyers group says latest ruling won’t solve stateless issue

Justin Ong
Surendran asserted that the problem was intentionally created by the National Registration Department acting on alleged direction from the Barisan Nasional previously. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 15 — Thousands more undocumented people will be marginalised by the government’s decision to grant citizenship to permanent residents over 60, said the Lawyers for Liberty today.

LFL director N. Surendran lauded Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s announcement on the matter yesterday, but said the proposal would only benefit a small section of those unable to obtain Malaysian citizenship.

The prime minister said yesterday the government will make holders of red MyKads over the age of 60 full citizens so long as they have applied for this, directly addressing the woes of around 3,407 ethnic Indian applicants.

Surendran argued that the group was only the tip of the iceberg from the problem that predates the current government.

“They do not comprise the total number of Indians over age 60 who hold red ICs. The actual number of red IC holders over age 60 must be known to the Home Ministry, but that figure is not in the public domain.

“In short, the granting of blue ICs to these persons will not resolve the statelessness of thousands of others who are not among the 3,407 applicants,” he said.

The former Padang Serai MP also questioned the value of Dr Mahatihr’s corollary announcement that applicants under 60, born in Malaysia to at least one Malaysian parent would also be granted citizenships.

He said these were subject to the requirement of having resided in Malaysia for 10 out of 12 years and being conversant in Bahasa Melayu, which was no different than the criteria applied to ordinary applicants for citizenships as laid out in the Federal Constitution.

Dismissing the second announcement as “irrelevant”, the lawyer claimed most stateless people here already fulfilled such requirements but were still unsuccessful in their citizenship applications due to inadequate birth and marriage documentation.

“To resolve the problem, the policies, operating procedures and methodologies of the Home Ministry and the NRD must be thoroughly reviewed and restructured by the new PH government.

“It is the inflexible and unnecessary demands for non-existent documents, evidence and witnesses insisted upon by the Home Ministry and NRD that is responsible for both creating and perpetuating the problem of statelessness in Malaysia,” Surendran said.

Surendran asserted that the problem was intentionally created by the National Registration Department acting on alleged direction from the Barisan Nasional previously.

He then urged the government via Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to introduce lasting and comprehensive measures to permanently resolve the issue, saying Malaysia’s problem with statelessness would not be addressed otherwise.