PETALING JAYA: An NGO dedicated to the upliftment of the rural community has described the number of stateless people, especially Indians, in four Malaysian states it surveyed as “alarming”.
The Development of Human Resources for Rural Areas Malaysia (DHRRA Malaysia) said the figure was not as high as the 300,000 stateless Indians nationwide, as claimed by the opposition.
Its president, Saravanan M Sinapan, said the NGO’s research from June 2014 to June 2017 recorded 12,392 stateless individuals.
Of these, only 2,225 had acquired citizenship, he said.
“The number of stateless people, especially Indians, is alarming because it continues to grow, but it’s not 300,000,” he told FMT.
He said the individuals were recorded in Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Perak and Kedah.
Out of the 12,392 stateless, 4,522 were children up to the age of 17 years, 3,227 were adults aged 18 to 59, and 4,643 were seniors aged 60 and above.
He said of the seniors, 40% were born in Malaysia while the other 60% had arrived in the country before independence in 1957.
“When children living in rural areas are stateless, they live in fear that the police or even Rela members will arrest them,” Saravanan said.
He said many children were denied the right to education and healthcare, especially as they were charged rates meant for foreigners.
The children must seek approval from the education ministry for schooling by submitting an application every year, he added.
“Since the children are considered stateless, their annual school fees is similar to that of a foreigner who is a permanent resident in the country,” he said.
DHRRA Malaysia is an affiliate of Asia DHRRA, a regional partnership of 11 social development networks and organisations in 10 Asian countries.
On Oct 31, Prime Minister Najib Razak dismissed opposition claims that some 300,000 Malaysian Indians were without citizenship papers.
He said only about 2,500 citizenship applications had been received from Malaysian Indians, including those born before independence and whose births had not been registered.
He said the government’s MyDaftar initiative, which covered every part of the country, had not found 300,000 stateless Malaysian Indians.
“This is a fairy tale. We only have 2,500 applications (for citizenship from Malaysian Indians),” he said.
Saravanan said the NGO was prepared to work with MIC or the National Registration Department to solve the problems of the stateless by sharing the information on its survey.