WE commend Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin for appearing on Bernama News on Oct 11 to talk about the laws and procedures for acquiring Malaysian citizenship and the importance of registering marriages to ensure that children do not end up being stateless.
However, it’s perplexing that the National Registration Department (JPN) and Home Ministry are still placing the blame on the children for being stateless, and their parents for not getting their marriage registered.
Most children seeking citizenship in Malaysia do not have other options open to them. They are either biological children of at least one Malaysian parent, adopted by Malaysian parents or abandoned in Malaysia.
NGOs like the Development of Human Resources for Rural Areas (DHRRA) Malaysia have carefully identified the needs and defended the rights of individuals who otherwise would be left stateless if their situation is not addressed immediately.
It is important to recognise the emotional and financial burden a Malaysian parent faces in caring for a stateless child.
While ministers must abide by the Federal Constitution, as policymakers they are responsible for identifying and bringing changes to laws that are not in the best interest of the nation and its most vulnerable population, in this case the stateless children.
The movement control order has stalled many of our advocacy meetings. To our further dismay, despite reaching out several times to the relevant ministry, we could not effectively participate in the discourses on best practices to resolve the issue.
It is important for the government to use the statelessness determination procedure to identify at least those who are in urgent need of citizenship and fast track their application.
It is worth noting that while large numbers of children are stateless because of their parents’ marriage registration status, they are in this situation because their parents could not register their marriage due to the fact that the parent himself or herself is stateless (i.e. stateless woman who cannot register her marriage and continues to pass on the stateless status to her children).
Migrants who became undocumented in Malaysia, married locals and eventually left their Malaysian family are also a large contributor to childhood statelessness.
It is also worth asking if awareness has been continuously raised among the community on the importance of marriage registration. We hope the current government has the political will to positively resolve an issue that is affecting thousands of Malaysian parents and families, and also put a stop to children being born stateless in this country.
Director of Social Protection
Development of Human Resources for Rural Areas (DHRRA) Malaysia