BUTTERWORTH: A DAP MP has proposed that a public roundtable be held to resolve the problem of stateless children in the country.
Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching said the core problem was the “standard operating procedures” by the National Registration Department (NRD) which only gives out citizenship to children whose parents are legally married.
She said this should not be the case as the Federal Constitution states citizenship must be given to a person born with at least one Malaysian parent.
“The roundtable will be open to all political parties, BN or MIC, and all non-governmental organisations to resolve the problem.
“The numbers are growing year-on-year and it is worrying,” Teo said at a forum on stateless children organised by Batu Kawan MP Kasthuriraani Patto in Juru here yesterday.
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, in a written reply to Parliament in November 2016, had said there were 290,437 stateless children below the age of 18.
Teo said the number of stateless children exceeded the population of Perlis, which has 250,000 people.
She said the roundtable discussions must be centred around ironing out core issues related to statelessness.
Zahid had revealed that 15,394 children born in Malaysia were denied citizenship between 2012 and January 2017, despite having fathers who were Malaysian citizens.
“Taking into account what was revealed, we can surmise there are eight children being born daily without citizenship.
“Children should not be made victims due to their parents’ carelessness or mistakes.
“Just make the granting of citizenship to children simple for they are innocent,” said Teo, who is also DAP assistant publicity secretary.
Earlier, Teo aired a 22-minute documentary on stateless children in Malaysia, which saw Malays, Chinese and Indian families in Johor share their plight on not having citizenship.
In the video, children and adopted children spoke of their desperate need to be in schools or colleges and the difficulties they faced without an identity card.
Kasthuriraani agreed with Teo, saying the NRD should explain what it meant when the citizenship applications were “ditolak” (rejected).
She said these letters must explain why their applications were rejected.
Kasthuriraani said the applicants must be given a chance to correct their mistakes, be it regarding documents or other requirements.
“We are also under the assumption that most stateless people, including children, are of Indian origin.
“Through our documentary today we can safely say it’s a Malaysian problem as all races are involved.”
She also expressed disappointment that certain VIPs’ spouses, who were foreigners, had an easy time obtaining citizenship, with the NRD ignoring those who actually needed it the most.
“According to the Federal Constitution, those born to at least one Malaysian parent can obtain citizenship.
“Why was the foreigner wife of a former chief minister granted citizenship and even allowed to vote twice in elections?”