New brooms sweep clean? Lawyers for stateless want to meet Pakatan Home Minister

Lawyer Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram (pic) said an attempt will be made to meet with Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to resolve the stateless problems faced by his clients who were born in Malaysia. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Lawyer Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram (pic) said an attempt will be made to meet with Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to resolve the stateless problems faced by his clients who were born in Malaysia. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PUTRAJAYA, June 4 — Lawyers whose clients are those born in Malaysia but stateless are seeking a meeting with new Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in hopes of securing a happy ending outside the courtroom.

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, which had won federal power in the May 9 general election, had promised in its manifesto to resolve the ethnic Indian community’s stateless problem within 100 days of forming government.

Lawyer Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram said an attempt will be made to meet with Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to resolve the stateless problems faced by his clients who were born in Malaysia.

“We intend to try and make a personal representation by making an appointment to see him, because we have been assured that this is a people-friendly government, that they are prepared to meet people, so we are going to test that,” he told reporters at the Palace of Justice here.

Gopal also compared Muhyiddin with his predecessor Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and described the former as an “educated and reasonable man with vast experience in civil administration both at the state and federal level”.

“He also has a very human side to him and we are confident that he will act humanely,” the lawyer said.

He pointed out that his clients were not the only ones affected, and that there were about 20 citizenship cases currently pending at all levels of the court.

One of Gopal’s clients, T*, was notified last month — after the new  PH government had been installed — of a decision made by Zahid under the then Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.

“In other words, the decision was made by the old government, that decision was communicated to our client after the new government came in. So we want to take that up,” he said of their plans to make a new representation to the Home Ministry.

Lawyer Latheefa Koya, who also represents T, said her client had made a fresh application under Article 15A of the Federal Constitution to be recognised as a citizen and had subsequently received a response by post in May.

Article 15A provides for the federal government’s special powers to register anyone below the age of 21 as citizen.

In the rejection letter sighted by Malay Mail, the Home Ministry informed T’s father that the Home Minister had decided to reject the application for the registration of him as citizen by way of Article 15A.

N. Surendran, another lawyer for T, noted that the rejected letter was dated March 30, but was mailed out with a postmark of May 23 and only received by his client on May 26.

“We are very baffled actually So what is the office at the Home Ministry doing, sending off these kind of letters two months later and after the GE, when there has been a change of government already?” he asked.

For citizenship applications under Article 15A, time is crucial as it has an age limit of 21 years old.

T, who will be turning 20 this September, was adopted by Malaysian parents and his biological parents are unknown.

The adoptive parents had registered themselves as his biological parents in the initial birth certificate and raised him as their own child for 12 years, but the NRD had cancelled T’s application for a MyKad due to doubts over his lineage and reissued a second birth certificate that stated that information was not obtained for his parents.

After a formal adoption process that included unsuccessful efforts to find T’s biological mother, the adoptive parents then applied in 2012 under Article 15A for their adoptive child to be recognised as a Malaysian, only to receive a rejection letter from the Home Ministry almost two years later.

After the 2014 rejection, T and his father filed the same year for judicial review against the National Registration Department’s director-general, Home Ministry and the Malaysian government to seek recognition as a citizen.

At that time when his lawsuit was filed, T was only aged 15.

T’s case is now set to be heard at the Federal Court on July 23 and July 24, along with the cases of four stateless children that were also born in Malaysia but were denied citizenship.

*T’s real name was not used due to privacy reasons.