Stateless issue must be addressed at its root

WE refer to the statement issued by Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin stating that he is looking into the case of Rohana Abdullah, a 22-year-old who is currently stateless and was raised by her Chinese adoptive mother after being abandoned as a baby by her biological mother.

We welcome his statement and urge him to resolve Rohana’s status as a stateless person immediately. The facts are clear, hence there is no need for lengthy investigations or bureaucratic processes. Rohana and her adoptive mother have suffered long enough.

Hamzah must know that there are tens of thousands of children and young adults who are in similar situations as Rohana throughout the country, and their suffering deserve equal attention. He must also realise that he himself as Home Affairs Minister bears heavy responsibility for their ordeal as a result of being unjustly deprived of citizenship.

The Home Affairs Minister should be reminded that these young people who were born in Malaysia are unfortunate victims of deliberate bureaucratic processes that persistently fail to uphold the Federal Constitution, which accords foundlings citizenship by operation of law.

The impact that this has on them cannot be understated; being stateless deprives them of many opportunities in life such as education, healthcare, and occupation.

The sad reality is that Rohana’s situation would have remained unresolved if it had not gained national attention. The administrative machinery of the Home Affairs Ministry and National Registration Department (JPN) should not depend on news coverage of random cases before they take action and properly execute their function in accordance with the law.

Hence, if the Home Affairs Minister is truly “touched” by Rohana’s situation, we urge him to revamp the policies of his ministry as well as JPN so that others in similar situations would not be rendered stateless. It is not good enough to react to adverse news coverage on a single issue with promises of action, and then go back to ignoring the tens of thousands with similar problems like Rohana.

Reactive solutions are inadequate; statelessness must be addressed comprehensively and systematically at its root.


Head coordinator

Lawyers for Liberty

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