Rights group welcomes Home Ministry’s commitment to solving Malaysia’s citizenship issues, calls for clear, unambiguous procedure

A general view of the National Registration Department in Putrajaya July 20, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
A general view of the National Registration Department in Putrajaya July 20, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 — Clear, holistic and unambiguous mechanisms must be put in place by the Home Ministry if it is to make good on its promise of solving the issue of stateless persons within a year, rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) said today.

In welcoming the move as announced by Home Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainudin, LFL’s coordinator Zaid Malek stressed the need for clear standard operating procedures and reasonable documentation requirements when addressing the issue.

He also noted how the National Registration Department (NRD) should also be tasked with giving proper advice to stateless persons who come forward to make an application to obtain citizenship.

“Most importantly, the documentation required must be reasonable. Stateless persons generally lack any proper and formal form of identification.

“Any documentation required must be in line with the provisions of the Federal Constitution, ie the documents needed must only pertain to what is necessary to prove the qualification for citizenship under the relevant provisions of the Federal Constitution.

“If it is clear that the applicant is entitled to citizenship as of right, lack of documentation cannot be a bar to confirming the citizenship of the applicant,” Zaid wrote in a statement this morning.

This comes after Hamzah acknowledged the ongoing issue of citizenship among stateless persons in Malaysia during his winding-up speech at the Budget 2021 Committee stage on Monday.

The minister had said he would afford those with citizenship issues a period of one year for them to solve their predicament, then advising individuals facing such issues to contact their respective MPs and notify them in order to receive assistance.  

LFL’s Zaid today also lauded the exceptions given by the ministry to those who lack proper documentation by allowing them to present other forms of evidence to prove their citizenship.

Additionally, he warned of issues previously faced by those applying, saying how the NRD had misconstrued the nature of applications between those making an application for citizenship and those who actually qualify for one as a right under Article 14 of the Federal Constitution.

“Those under the latter category are usually refused the right to make an application under Article 14 despite fulfilling the criteria under said provision. Therefore, it is pertinent that the mechanism introduced by the Home Ministry must make clear NRD’s role in receiving these applications.

“We sincerely hope the upcoming announcement by the Home Ministry will provide a holistic mechanism that would effectively solve the issue of statelessness in Malaysia.

“Without proper procedures and execution, this move will ultimately be for naught,” Zaid added.

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