Monday, September 6, 2010

Stateless in Malaysia - the poor suffer most

(Malaysiakini) Fifteen year old Citra Dorai was born in a prison in Alor Setar and her knowledge about the circumstances surrounding her birth is rather vague.

She has been illiterate all her life as she does not have a birth certificate or an identity card which makes it impossible for her to register for any school.

stateless persons gather perai 050910 citra dorai on rightHer mother died recently and her father has left her and two other siblings in the care of an aunt, and Citra (left) is totally uncertain of her future.

"I want to be like everyone else, to go to school, and to have something to do in the future," she said, teary-eyed.

Citra, is among 40-odd stateless persons who turned up at the Human Rights Party's office in Perai today, to fill in their national registration forms.

More than 20 children, with ages ranging from two to 15 years, were accompanied by their equally stateless parents, to try and reverse their situation by registering their plight.

The effort is part of the HRP's national campaign to assist stateless persons, as most of them come from the Indian community.

Citra is also part of the 150,000 Malaysians who were born and bred in the country but who continues to suffer as stateless persons for various reasons ranging from not having parents' with citizenship to refusal to follow suit when a spouse or parent converts to Islam.
Disappointing meet
On Aug 13, HRP leaders met with NRD officers in Putrajaya, but came home feeling disappointed that the officers gave the impression that the problem was not as serious as they had made it out to be, said the party's national advisor N. Ganesan.

"But we have proven our point, in just a month, without even a campaign, only word by mouth, we have managed to gather some 40 stateless people in this office," he said.

stateless persons gather perai 050910 n ganesan"We want the NRD to take ownership of this problem and try to resolve this issue; it cannot deny that this is a big problem," Ganesan (right) added.

Ganesan, a lawyer by profession, reiterated that what has been constitutionally guaranteed has been systematically and procedurally denied to the poor and vulnerable.

"This has contributed further to their marginalisation and continuing dispossession from mainstream Malaysia," he added.

Meanwhile, the NRD has responded to the allegations by stating that the mobile registration program known as MyDaftar has been travelling to several Tamil schools and Indian estates to register undocumented children this year.

Its public relations officer Janisiah Mohd Noor stated in an email reply, that for cases of mixed marriage sans conversion, the matter should be referred to the appropriate religious department for more clarification.

She also stressed that the parents must be in legal wedlock to be registered as the child's parent.

Janisiah claimed that the main reason for this statelessness plaguing the poor Malaysian Indians is due to their ignorance of law, unregistered marriages, and domestic problems.

stateless persons gather perai 050910 crowdGanesan said the forms provided by the NRD was complicated that even an educated, un-marginalised middle class person would find a daunting task to fill in all their particulars.

"Please be reminded that these people with the stateless problems are from the working class; everyday they go to the NRD and are rejected due to incomplete forms, they lose a day's wage," he said.

"They have to return again and again before they get their forms rights and for many of these working class people, they simply cannot afford the time, so they let things continue to hang," he added.