NGO urges long-term plan to help stateless kids

Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy says action should have been taken by government departments a long time ago. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: Human rights NGO Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) wants Putrajaya to adopt a consistent policy towards resolving the issue of stateless children.

Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy praised Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s recent call for the National Registration Department (JPN) to work with NGOs to speed up the registration of stateless children.

However, he said the issue should be given regular attention, not just when a case gained publicity, such as when top student Roisah Abdullah could not apply to enter a public university as she does not have Malaysian citizenship.

Sevan said government departments like JPN should have held consultations with NGOs and civil societies knowledgeable about such problems a long time ago.

“Any such consultations should be continued with a proper constructive action plan to address these issues in the long term,” he told FMT.

He also expressed hope that the promises given now would be kept after the 14th general election (GE14).

On March 12, Lawyers for Liberty highlighted the plight of 20-year-old Roisah, whose application for citizenship was rejected five years after submission.

Although she was born in Klang in 1997, no information was available about her father, while her mother is a foreigner. She had lived with her adoptive parents who have since passed away.

PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim said in a statement later that day that Zahid, who is home minister, should help Roisah to enable her to study at a local university.

“Zahid must accept responsibility for this situation. He must make this case his priority instead of spending his time campaigning for GE14.

“I also urge Zahid to look into the large number of other Malaysians who remain stateless despite being qualified under the Federal Constitution,” Anwar had said.

Last week, Zahid said JPN would be fair to such children so that they could receive proper education and get valid documents.

He said he had empowered state education department directors to cooperate with all parties concerned to speed up the registration process for such children.

Zahid also said most of the parents of such children had tied the knot overseas and had not legally registered their marriages in Malaysia.

“Do not blame JPN. The children are clean (innocent). The parents are the ones who caused the problems,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama.