Stateless Indians will soon be a thing of the past

T.N.Alagesh

KUANTAN: Stateless Indians across the country can now breathe a sigh of relief following Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s promise to introduce a permanent and comprehensive solution to the long-standing issue.

Last week Dr Mahathir assured 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.

Sabai state assemblyman D. Kamache, who was among eight Indian Pakatan Harapan(PH) leaders who met Dr Mahathir on Aug 13, said 3,407 Indians aged 60 and above who are red identity card holders will soon be given citizenship status.

She said the promise to address citizenship issues in the country was not only for Indians but people of all races who have struggled to obtain the MyKad. “The government has given the green light and now its time to implement it. We hope the National Registration Department (NRD) offices nationwide have been briefed on the matter and will assist in making the application process simple. “Based on my records, not only Indians are without identification documents. There are also cases involving Chinese and other races especially when they marry a foreigner. Now the government has introduced a solution, so I hope individuals facing difficulty in gaining citizenship due to various reasons in the past will seize the opportunity to own proper identification documents,” she told NSTP when met. Kamache, who is the PH coordinator for the Indian community in Pahang, said unlike in the past, the new application process has been made easier by the PH government and there were no complicated rules or documentation. “Previously, one had to track down family history, include photographs of the family members in the application form, undergo a DNA test, obtain supporting letters from the school or other authorities or sometimes make a police report in order to apply for confidential information...but now I hope the process will be shortened and there will be less hassle. “Those with problems related to citizenship issues can now meet PH leaders or chairmen in their respective areas to see what they require for the application process,” she said, adding that she will be going to the ground to visit estates and rural settlements in Pahang to help solve issues concerning the identification documents. Meanwhile, Kamache said there were also cases where some individuals failed to collect their MyKad from the NRD officer after applying for it or register their children’s birth. “Some applied for the MyKad and then moved to another state and never made any attempt to claim the identity card while there are some women who are separated from their husband, and have not registered their child’s birth. These are some of the cases which my service centre has been looking into over the past few years. “Being without proper identification documents is a major problem as one cannot receive proper assistance, cannot enrol in school or receive medical aid and will be treated as a foreigner,” she said. Dr Mahathir was last week reported saying to obtain the MyKad, red card holders aged 60 and above will have to fill a form at the NRD as part of the criteria while for those under the age of 60, citizenship would be granted if one parent was a Malaysian, the child is Malaysian-born and pass a “simple” Bahasa Malaysia competency test.

Under its manifesto, PH had promised to resolve the issues surrounding stateless Indians if it wins Putrajaya in the 14th General Election. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd