PETALING JAYA: The issue of stateless Indians must be addressed by the home ministry and the national registration department (NRD) in a more proactive and supportive manner, including having more Tamil-speaking staff.
This was a common view shared by two opposition leaders and a coordinator with a government agency in charge of tackling the issue of stateless Indians.
According to Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy, there are many stateless Indians who have just given up applying for citizenship simply because of the callous and irresponsible attitude of NRD.
“More than 90% of the officers and staff of NRD are Malays who have little or no sympathy for the plight of Indians in the country.
“Some of the top officers are probably those who have been socialised into thinking of Malay supremacy (ketuanan Melayu) and that non-Malays are ‘pendatang’, he said.
MyDaftar special implementation task force coordinator N Siva Subramaniam shared a similar view on the issue of NRD staffing.
“It would be of help if more Indians or Tamil-speaking officers are placed in the NRD and the home ministry to overcome the language hurdle.
“This together with having NRD officers to go to the ground to gauge the real situation and register applicants, would help to improve the government’s efforts in tackling the issue of stateless Indians,” Siva was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini in a recent interview.
He added that such a proactive measure would be more effective compared with waiting for would-be applicants, who may have issues with transport, to come to NRD offices.
PKR vice-president N Surendran too called for the home ministry to reach out to the thousands of stateless Indians and process their applications promptly and efficiently.
“Despite the massive logistical and financial resources available to the federal government, we have yet to hear of any serious nationwide efforts taken by the NRD or home ministry to resolve the problem.
“The NRD itself is acting in breach of the provisions of the Federal Constitution in many of these rejections of genuine cases,” the Padang Serai MP said.
However, Surendran and Ramasamy differed with Siva on what more can be done to help expedite a solution for all the stateless Indians in the country.
Siva suggested the issue be tackled at the ground level with more information being disseminated and roping in Tamil schools to assist in identifying children who don’t have proper registration.
“Tamil schools can start by checking if their pupils have proper documentation, and if they do not, the teachers can help forward the cases to the relevant parties.
“Children without documentation is most worrying in this whole issue. This could deprive them of a good education, and their chances of having better lives ahead.
“I recently conducted a talk in a Tamil school in Batu Caves, and it was shocking to find out that there were at least 300 children with documentation issues. Another school in Klang had 350 cases,” Siva told Malaysiakini, adding that there are worrying numbers of children with documentation problems at orphanages nationwide.
He suggested that Deputy Education Minister II P Kamalanathan play a role in addressing the matter.
However, Surendran says the problem can be solved with more clarity in policy by the government.
“It is the responsibility of the home ministry and the NRD to regularise the citizenship documentation problems of the public.
“Genuine cases of persons, including children, who were born and have lived in Malaysia for decades are routinely rejected.
“At the NRD, their applications are engulfed in red-tape. Demands are made for supporting documents which have long been lost, destroyed or are unavailable,” he said.
“Therefore, the government can resolve the problem by the stroke of a pen, by reforming the policy in dealing with stateless applicants.”
Ramasamy also said that the primary and core stumbling block in the issue of stateless Indians is the lack of political will by the national leadership.