NOVEMBER 8 — “Malaysia hates children,” a child activist told me once.
In light of recent events I would have to agree.
Our Constitution states that any child born in Malaysia and found not to be a citizen of any other country is deemed a citizen.
Statelessness is a horrible limbo that no one should experience, whether child or adult.
For a stateless child in Malaysia, however, it means being without identification papers, being unable to go to school, being barred from travel and at risk for officially-sanctioned acts of cruelty.
Too many children are stuck with adults in immigration depots and treated little better than strays rounded up and placed in a pound.
Without papers they cannot leave, nor can they stay. The new amendments will make their futures bleak and are nothing more than sheer cruelty.
The Constitution was only supposed to be amended to allow Malaysian women to pass down citizenship to their children.
Yet the government intends to introduce various other changes including abolishing citizenship rights of the children of Malaysian permanent residents as well as foundlings.
At the same time I have to deal with the never-ending deluge of photos of suffering/dead Palestinian children on social media while local businesses offering to “donate profits from sales” or shaking collection boxes, even though it is next to impossible to send monetary aid into besieged Gaza.
We have politicians on their soapboxes criticising Israel, calling on Malaysians to “support their Muslim brethren” while casually excluding Palestinian Christians and those of other faiths also residing there.
Is a Palestinian not a real Palestinian if they’re not a certain faith? In Malaysia it seems so.
The level of ignorance about Jewish people, their faith and the difference between Judaism and Zionism in Malaysia is appalling and it doesn’t help when local bookstores put up Adolf Hitler biography displays.
Yet when there are calls to support the Palestine refugees already here or allow those needing shelter to seek refuge in Malaysia, Malaysians balk.
You weep and wring your hands to see children dying overseas but at the same time refuse to act in a more concrete manner to actually save their lives?
Please spare me the performative compassion that unfortunately seems to be a Malaysian mainstay.
We aren’t much kinder to our children in reality. Our schools have deteriorated in terms of quality despite the millions of ringgit pumped into the education sector.
Malnutrition is all too common in the lower income groups; sometimes I pass by groups of local secondary school children and wonder to myself, why are they so small?
Those children, long ago, who went on a joyride in a car but ended up being killed by bullets, only now have their parents finally received compensation after more than a decade of fighting for it.
All children should have the right to proper food, shelter and an education with not a single one left behind whether by birth or circumstances.
Scrap the extra constitutional amendments; give Malaysian mothers equal rights and not just the ones who had children while married.
No illegitimate child should be punished for the actions of their parents, whether or not their father, their mother or both are Malaysians.
Our children deserve better than lip service and a bureaucratic state of cruelty.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.