PETALING JAYA: Lawyers for Liberty has called on the government to undertake its “Mega MyDaftar” campaign through the National Registration Department (NRD) instead of allowing it to be overseen by a political party.
Its executive director, Eric Paulsen, said the campaign to help Indians without identification documents should be institutionalised and implemented by the NRD.
It should be done with the support of other government agencies, rather than at the “behest and whims” of any political entity like MIC.
Paulsen said it should also be expanded to include other segments of society affected by statelessness.
“Statelessness affects a wide spectrum of communities and individuals with diverse backgrounds – not just people of Indian origin,” he said in a statement today.
He pointed to the plight of indigenous tribes and children whose parents have unclear status, such as refugees and migrants.
He added that abandoned children, those who have unregistered marriages and some segments of the Chinese community are also affected.
“While any political party can support the registration process, it should not be made the lead of the campaign, in order to avoid any speculation or impression that Malaysian citizenship is beholden to one’s political affiliation,” Paulsen said.
“This concern is made all the more acute given the timing of the campaign announcement prior to the impending general election.”
The upcoming 14th general election (GE14) is due by the middle of next year.
Yesterday, MIC president Dr S Subramaniam, who is also the health minister, announced the campaign, which will run from June 3 to 26, as a continuation of the “MyDaftar” campaign implemented by the government previously when about 12,000 applications were received by those having problems.
Paulsen said similar campaigns done before had brought little improvement to the plight of stateless Indians.
He said they do not address the rights of stateless people.
They are then required to be naturalised or registered under “special circumstances”, he added.
“Therefore, their status as citizens is not acquired by operation of law or ‘as of right’ but through the discretion of the authorities and subject to their requirements,” he said.
Paulsen said many of those affected have the requisite “genuine and effective link” with Malaysia through birth, habitual residence, descent, marriage and so on.
However, they have been unable to acquire citizenship due to discrimination, neglect, and excessive and burdensome requirements, he added.
“Most importantly, these stateless cases should be registered under the proper procedures for citizens, through a simplified application procedure and documentation requirement, instead of placing an unrealistic burden on them to prove their citizenship.”