NOVEMBER 23 — The Sabah and Sarawak Chapters of CSO Platform for Reform are deeply concerned over the proposed Federal Constitution amendment on citizenship that was announced by KDN Minister Saifuddin Nasution, that will adversely affect the Indigenous Peoples of Sabah and Sarawak who are still stateless or hold the MyPR instead of the MyKad. Sabah has constantly been pointed out as the main cause of some of the regressive citizenship amendments that are being proposed in the Federal Constitution.

The CSO Platform for Reform highlights the pressing issue of statelessness that disproportionately affects Malaysia-born native rural communities[1], where statistical numbers remain under researched by the government and often weaponised politically to the point of stigmatisation.

The proposed amendments are not in line with the Malaysia Agreement 1963 where safeguards on citizenship were intentionally introduced to ensure that everyone born in Malaysia will not be rendered stateless as stated by the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Allahyarham Tunku Abdul Rahman during the parliamentary debates in 1962.

CSO Platform urgently demands the Madani government to provide accurate, transparent and accountable statistics on statelessness before releasing narratives to the public; an issue that in fact plagues the Malaysia-born native rural communities where statistical numbers are still unrealised by the government[2]. If these amendments are implemented, they could worsen the problem, especially for children creating a lasting generational issue due to bureaucratic hurdles. Tens of thousands of Malaysia-born individuals could lose a crucial safeguard — their rights to a fair legal process to claim citizenship.

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CSO Platform urgently demands the Madani government to provide accurate, transparent and accountable statistics on statelessness before releasing narratives to the public; an issue that in fact plagues the Malaysia-born native rural communities where statistical numbers are still unrealised by the government. — Picture By Farhan Najib
CSO Platform urgently demands the Madani government to provide accurate, transparent and accountable statistics on statelessness before releasing narratives to the public; an issue that in fact plagues the Malaysia-born native rural communities where statistical numbers are still unrealised by the government. — Picture By Farhan Najib

The citizenship amendments will affect children of Malaysian families. Instead of resolving the dire situation of statelessness that the state faces, the regressive amendments will exacerbate the number of stateless persons especially those from vulnerable indigenous communities.

Reported cases of these vulnerable indigenous communities affected are the Penan people of Sarawak[3] and Lundayeh of Sabah[4]; these communities struggle to obtain government recognition and live without access to basic infrastructure, electricity and education let alone the luxury to travel out of their village that is usually inaccessible even to outsiders; to obtain documentation, rendering them unwillingly stateless as ‘invisible’ people of our land.[5] The government should go forward with the progressive amendments for children of Malaysian mothers born overseas, but drop the five regressive proposed amendments.

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We urge the government to address and stop perpetuating the mischaracterisation of the issue on statelessness. The CSO Platform for Reform emphasises the need for the government to examine the consequences of the narrative used to push the proposed constitutional reforms on citizenship rights, emphasising the government needs to be part of the solution to resolve statelessness within vulnerable rural communities. The people of Malaysia deserve a government that upholds transparency, and accountability.

The Malaysia Madani government must safeguard the promise made to Sabah and Sarawak to ensure that no one in Sabah and Sarawak are rendered stateless. These were promises continuously made to our forefathers and these rights should not be diluted on the Federal Government’s whims and fancies. The prophetic words of Temenggong Jugah during the formation of Malaysia, ‘Anang Malaysia baka tebu, manis dipun tabar di hujung’ (Malaysia should not be like sugar cane, sweet at the top but bland at the end) seems to be coming true especially when more and more rights of Sabahans and Sarawakians are being stripped away at the mercy of the Federal Government.

We call upon the Madani Government to the followings:

1. To provide statistics and demographics for the number of foundlings and children of PR holders who have been granted citizenship in Sabah and Sarawak.

2. To have inclusive consultation sessions with stateless Indigenous People to address their plight

3. To engage civil society organisations, specifically CSOs/NGOs working closely with the stateless and undocumented grassroot communities.

CSO Platform for Reform would like to offer ourselves as a strategic partner to the Sabah and Sarawak state governments, as well as the federal government, as we forge ahead to strengthen the nation, while leaving no one behind.

Released by

Steering Committee of CSO Platform for Reform

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.