PETALING JAYA: The Federal Government was criticised today for “playing political football” with citizenship by granting citizenship to “a token group’ of non-Malay residents just to fish for votes during elections.
The human rights group Suaram, in a statement today, called for the release of statistics on the number of stateless Malaysian residents, by ethnic group, and the length of time they had been living in Malaysia.
“The government should also give us a cogent explanation for why these Malaysians, who have lived in this country for more than 10 years, have not been given citizenship.”
Suaram adviser Kua Kia Soong said the press had recently highlighted the case of a 100-year-old Malaysian Chinese woman being finally given citizenship after being resident for decades, and that of a Malaysian Chinese restaurateur who had been in the country for more than 40 years.
“Were they expected to be grateful to the Barisan Nasional (BN) government for finally getting their citizenship or should they be angry at the BN government for depriving them of the citizenship they deserved many years ago?” he said.
Kua criticised “the continuation of this feudal practice” at election time, “when in fact citizenship for Malaysians who have lived here for decades should be a right they enjoy”.
He said Suaram called for the cessation of “political football” by BN in giving out citizenship to a token group of non-Malays just before every election, only when it wants non-Malay votes.
Kua said the figures for stateless people in Peninsula Malaysia alone ranged from 40,000 according to the UN human rights agency (UNHCR) to over 300,000 according to the Hindraf action group.
He said: “This perennial problem of citizenship for stateless Malaysians must be solved once and for all. We are not prepared to accept the sickening spectacle only during an election, of citizenship being dished out in drips to a small group of Malaysians who have lived in this country for decades.”
He said the right to a nationality was a fundamental human right recognised in a series of international legal instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which also states that no one should be arbitrarily deprived of his or her nationality.
The Federal Constitution also provides that the qualification period for citizenship was 10 years in the 12 years preceding an application for a citizenship certificate.