PETALING JAYA: Home minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said he had never mentioned fluency in Bahasa Malaysia as being a condition for obtaining a passport.
He said there had been no rejection of passport applications so far because of language problems.
However, he said, Malaysians dealing with staff at government counters were expected to speak a minimum standard of Bahasa Malaysia to facilitate matters.
“What I recommend is that Malaysians, including Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), to prioritise Bahasa Malaysia – that’s the issue.
“It has never been the practice of the immigration department to reject passport applications because of language.
“The proof is that 2.3 million passports were issued this year alone and there is no record of rejection because of language problems.
“The data is with the ministry,” he said after launching the district parole station system for prisoners in Tanjung Malim today.
Saifuddin said the use of Bahasa Malaysia was enshrined in the Federal Constitution and every Malaysian should master it.
He was commenting on yesterday’s report that LFL had criticised him for defending an immigration officer, who scolded a woman and her daughter in Johor for not being fluent in Bahasa Malaysia.
On allegations that there were special provisions in prisons for VIPs, Saifuddin said: “Over the past year with the ministry, I’ve visited most of the prisons in our country. I have not found a single VIP room for inmates.”
He said those who made these allegations must provide the evidence or stop making such claims.
On the district parole station system launched today, Saifuddin said it would function as a transit centre for parole officers and the supervision of those under the parole, licensed prisoner release and prisoners’ release on licence programmes.
He said the district parole station was an alternative form of punishment for prisoners to undergo rehabilitation in the community outside prison.
He hoped this system will reduce overcrowding in prisons and reduce the recidivism rate.
This way, he said, the government need not pay for prisoners’ food and drinks.
“In a year that’s almost RM18 million in savings. But that is not our priority. Under this system, they will be able to adapt, work and support the families they have left behind.”
So far, 20 such district parole stations have been established to support the existing 52 parole and community services offices.
Forty prisons department personnel and 40 Rela members are working at these stations to carry out the monitoring.
Saifuddin said as of October, the prisons department had released 39,637 prisoners on parole. This system was introduced in 2008.
He hoped to have more district parole stations in all parliamentary constituencies, depending on the funds available.