Addressing a major concern of the Indian community

  • Letters
  • Thursday, 17 Feb 2011

A longstanding problem plaguing the Indian community – lack of official documents – is finally getting attention through the nationwide MyDaftar campaign to register stateless individuals.

The government and the MIC are together tackling, in a concerted, eight-day nationwide campaign, an issue that has been long festering – the lack of official documents among the most underprivileged in the Indian community.

The MyDaftar campaign that starts on Saturday seeks to register and process all Indians without official documents in the hope that official documents like birth certificates, identity cards and citizenship status can be issued to those with valid claims.

The campaign is in fulfilment of a 2009 government pledge to address issues that plague the community and which had alienated its most vulnerable members.

Without official documents like birth certificates and identity cards, these individuals have been denied privileges like jobs, education, retirement benefits and ownership of a home that other Malaysians enjoy as a matter of right.

Without official documents attesting to one’s birth and identity, one cannot even open a savings account, enjoy Socso benefits or contribute to EPF.

Without the official documents, a person, even if born in the country, is often rendered stateless.

Although the estimated number of Indians suffering from lack of official documents varies from between 8,000 and 40,000, their plight usually takes centre stage in the Tamil vernacular media whose reporting have influenced the Indian community’s perception that they have been discriminated and marginalised.

This perception heavily influenced the community’s voting pattern in the 2008 general election and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, on taking over in April 2009, promised to set up a special cabinet committee on Indians to resolve longstanding and pressing issues in a proactive manner.

One of the issues singled out was the lack of birth certificates and identity cards among the Tamil working class.

Najib felt it was not enough for bureaucrats to sit in their office and say that some of the Tamil working class were stateless because they did not apply for the documents.

While this is true, Najib wanted the issue resolved in a proactive manner and thus the current campaign to issue official documents to the people who need it and not wait for them to come to the offices of the National Registration Department in the country.

Lack of education, logistics challenges, poverty and a careless attitude are reasons why thousands of Tamils had failed to register themselves or their children soon after birth.

The failure to hold official documents has a domino effect on the individuals and the community at large because it perpetuates the perception of marginalisation as well as worsens poverty and low achievement by denying individuals proper career and education opportunities and fuels anger at society for alleged discrimination.

As part of the campaign, 85 NRD branch offices nationwide will assist Indians to obtain official documents such as birth certificates and the MyKad.

MIC branches and divisions are actively sourcing for individuals without official documents to turn up and register.

It is heartening to note that Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam, who heads the cabinet committee, and MIC president Datuk G. Palanivel are working together on this programme.

Both have appeared together to mobilise the party’s Youth and Wanita divisions to participate.

There is a tacit understanding to sink their political differences to further the needs of the Indian community, especially with a prime minister ready and willing to help and a government eager to end longstanding dissatisfaction.

They have appointed programme co-ordinators in states with a high proportion of Indians in addition to mobilising the MIC offices across the country.

Campaign posters inviting registration from affected individuals have been put up at estates, coffee shops, entertainment premises, clubs and restaurants frequented by Indians.

Indian websites and blogs are also publicising the MyDaftar campaign along with television and radio news. In addition, online registration is available by downloading a form.

“The campaign is a platform to help those with problems regarding their official documents. I hope they can finally find a solution,” said Dr Subramaniam.

Students without birth certificates, children without official documents at welfare homes, and the elderly who had waited for years for citizenship will get priority.

Such a concerted campaign with full-page advertisements in the Tamil newspapers is indeed a rare thing for the Indian community and indicates that the MIC and the government are serious about working together to resolve longstanding woes.

Resolving the festering issue of basic documentation such as birth certificates, identification cards and citizenship for the stateless Indians will go a long way towards soothing and alleviating their deeply-held sense of official neglect.

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