Statelessness of Indian Malaysians – UMNO – enough of your senseless cruelty!

By Naragan

The time has come to completely eliminate the problem of Stateless Indian Malaysians in Malaysia. It is not clearly known how many exactly there are in the country. We estimate several hundred thousands. We believe this large problem arose as a direct result of the estate fragmentation policy of the Alliance/BN government and the ensuing descent into poverty of the estate Indian workers, in the 1970s.

The problem has since multiplied, as one couple begot several children who in turn begot several more grandchildren in the 40 or so years since. This coupled with all the problems of poverty – illiteracy, runaway children, association with crime, alcoholism, unregistered mixed religion marriages and the abandonment by society at large of these people has resulted in this dire situation.

When birth registration is denied it closes the door to rights to children which we others take for granted: they simple cannot prove age; prove nationality; receive healthcare; go to school; take exams; be adopted; marry; open a bank account; hold a driving licence; obtain a passport; inherit money or property; vote or stand for elected office, just about everything.

They cease to exist – when birth registrations are denied. How much more cruel can a society get to these people for mere administrative lapses.

The right of every child to a name and nationality, and the responsibility of national governments to achieve this are contained in Articles 7 and 8 in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: “All children have the right to a legally registered name, and nationality” (Article 7) and “Governments should respect children’s right to a name, a nationality and family ties”. Malaysia is a signatory to this Convention on the Rights of the Child.

But Malaysia just does not care. There is no political will in this racially biased system of ours to eliminate this problem. It has been allowed to fester for fifty odd years. There have been at best feeble attempts to take care of an individual here or an individual there, but the problem of statelessness amongst the Indian poor continues unabated.

To the UMNOPutras, this becomes a useful way of reducing the Indian numbers in the population, which they falsely think is good for them. To the rest of the power elite this abandoned group forms a useful source of cheap and exploitable labour who will do the menial jobs at the lowest rungs of society – just look around. To the MIC, the supposed representatives of these people, this offers them another opportunity to appear benevolent and relevant – in the illusions they create of helping these abandoned people.

No more. Not any more. The time has come for us as a nation to eliminate this problem once and for all.

Our proposal to eliminate this problem

1) The Government should set up a special unit in the Jabatan Pendatfaran Negara to address this Birth Registration and Identity Card issue among the Indians. This unit should be adequately resourced all the way from field workers to Department Directors. Their charter will be to:

a) Identify all Indian Malaysians who do not have a Birth Certificate (BC) and/or an Identity Card (IC).

b) Create a database of them and establish appropriate programs to clear them one by one.

c) Simplify the procedures for applying for delayed BCs and ICs. Make the process “poor friendly”

– do not require the applicants to fill out so many forms

– do not require them to provide so much and often redundant documentary evidence

– do not require them to come to the JPN offices so many times

– do not reject their applications because they did not cross their ‘t’s or dot their ‘i’s.

– treat them with more respect and support them through this process

d) Authorize Senior and respected members of the community to certify birth and parentage where a hospital is unable to do it.

2) Establish clear rules to resolve issues of mixed marriages between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. Empower parents to decide the religion of their children. The government should not impose the Syaria law on non-Muslims. Mixed marriages are one of the major reasons for the stateless Indian problem. Empower this special unit to address this problem without interference from any religious bodies.

3) The JPN should discard procedures setup a long time ago with technology of a long time ago – technology like using photographs to establish resemblances. All that is really required is for the hospital where the child was born to be made responsible for the registration of the birth. The birth then goes into the national database of births. That is all.  The birth is registered – a birth certificate should be issued. For deviations from the normal case, like for births at home or for abandoned children – a similar simple enough alternative procedure needs to be established. What is the point of an e-Government system if it does not serve useful purposes like this.

4) If someone wants to beat the system, they will. The system can never be so water tight that there will be zero violations. Even now, we know of so many Indonesians who are Indonesians in every respect except they have Malaysian ICs. The attempt to make the current system so fool proof has not stopped this violation. Instead the onerousness of the procedures to fool proof the system has contributed to a large statelessness problem among the Indian poor. Simplify the system, treat miscreants who attempt to beat the system with the arms of the law – that is what the police, the public prosecutors and the judges are there for.

5) The Government needs to set up a mechanism to monitor and report on this effort on-line.

None of what we are proposing is undoable. It is our firm belief that if there is a will there is always a way. Up to now the UMNO led Government, in their supreme wisdom has shown no will to address this problem. They cannot continue to keep history bottled up. When the time is up, it is up … plain and simple. The more UMNO tries to keep it bottled up, the more they will not be able to.

This problem must be eliminated once and for all. There are too many people suffering as a result of this senseless cruelty.