Should the government not exercise the jus soli to those who were born here straight away, so that no one has to beg for a citizenship fromt he only country they have known all their lives?
(Jus soli is birthright citizenship, the right of anyone born in the territory of a state to nationality or citizenship.)
The Star reported of former soldiers of the Lun Bawang minority ethnic group from the Bakelalan highlands in northernmost Sarawak are now in their 70s and 80s but without MyKads.
Although they were born, lived and defended the country, they are still trying to secure their MyKad which will make them citizens.
Do these soldiers and those who fall under the same category have to hold red or green identity cards, and live with non-citizen status their entire lives?
Says Latheefa Koya of Lawyers For Liberty, the concept of jus soli does exist in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
“In the Federal Constitution under Section 14 1 (b) Part III, it states who are those who are granted the right to Malaysian citizenship and it includes those who are born in Malaysia although they may have not registered for a MyKad,” she says.
Latheefa adds that the MyKad only indicates that you are a Malaysian citizen and it does not mean that those who have the right to citizenship who do not own a MyKad is therefore considered as non-Malaysians.
In some cases, it also depends on how one has arrived in Malaysia.
“There is a difference between having to register to be a Malaysian and to be granted automatically a citizenship.
“To register it means that the person is to be interviewed by the registry department will be asked questions about Malaysia and how well they know Malaysia before they can be granted citizenship.
“Having to register to be a citizen also means that the registry department has the power to reject a person’s application and that poses a risk of the person who has the right to citizenship but not granted one.
“It isn’t fair for the department to be asking these kinds of questions to stateless children, for example, who have not even gone to school and do not understand Bahasa Malaysia.
“How do you expect them to answer these questions?” asks Latheefa, who once led a group of stateless people to do a sit-in at the National Registration Department to insist they be given citizenship.
According to Latheefa if the government, knowing that the soldiers are qualified to be granted citizenship but is just being discriminatory, then the government has violated the Federal Constitution.
“They are many others in this country who are treated this way, and only the government can answer as to why these people are still not given their citizenship even when they meet the criteria stated in the Federal Constitution,” she adds.
Soo Wern Jun