I held a press conference to highlight a few cases which I have received within my constituency in the last few months of Malaysians, young and old, being denied their rights to citizenship. Some cases are more complicated, but some are outright errors on the part of the National Registration Department (NRD). However, one thing is common, the lack of response, action or worse, a complete disregard of their rights by the NRD, which falls under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Below is the relevant news report from The Malaysian Insider:
PETALING JAYA, Nov 7 — A three-year-old girl is among three people apparently denied citizenship in a growing number of what the DAP’s Tony Pua says are “systemic irregularities” in the National Registration Department.
Speaking at a press conference today, Pua highlighted the three cases which he hoped the government would look into and expedite the process of granting them citizenship.
"I think citizenship is a basic right for any human anywhere in the world. Based on our citizenship law if they qualify, the government should take every step to expedite the process," said Pua, who is also the DAP national publicity secretary.
Lai Jian Yo, 3, who has a Thai mother and a Malaysian father, has been erroneously listed as a non-Malaysian in her birth certificate.
Pua said: "By law, any person born in this country after Merdeka as long as the father or mother is a citizen or even a permanent resident of Malaysia, the child will qualify as a citizen."
(Check Federal Constitution Article 14(1)(b), and Part II of 2nd Schedule)
The child was born in 2005, and the parents only appealed in March last year as they were not aware of the law. The parents were asked to submit an application but up to this day there has not been any progress.
"It is not a matter of by application; if the error is in the birth certificate then all you need to do is change the birth certificate. You don't need to actually apply for new citizenship because she is not a foreigner," said Pua, who is also Petaling Jaya Utara MP.
The father is worried for the child's future because he is not able to register her for school. The girl will also not be able to work or move freely if she remains stateless.
The second case involves Thee Hin Yee, 19, who is an adopted child. She is unable to study or work due to her current situation.
She grew up having a temporary passport. (errata: this refers to Passport terhad, not temporary passport) However when she was 12, the NRD confiscated her birth certificate when she collected her identity card. The NRD deemed her birth certificate not legitimate and also retained her identity card. She submitted her application in 2002 but there has been no progress till now.
The third case highlighted by Pua was that of a 72-year-old mother Lam Khoi Tong, who has been denied a passport.
She was born before independence and has pre-independence identity papers. Due to misinformation during registration, she was issued a red identity card even though she was eligible for citizenship.
She has been applying ever since for citizenship.
Said Pua: "There are real systematic issues or problems in the NRD because you find people from the youngest to the oldest facing problems."