‘Are you really Chinese? Why is your skin dark?’

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

“How I wished during those sleepless hours that I belonged to a different nation, or better still, to none at all.”

– WG Sebald, Vertigo

COMMENT | When my friend P Uthayakumar said this – “That could have been done just merely by a stroke of the pen… but they did not do it” – about the current Pakatan Harapan regime solving the issue of stateless Indians, he is right, of course.

M Kula Segaran, on the other hand, is also correct to point out that citizenship status would be granted not only to the Indian community but to all races. Both statements demonstrate how easy it would be for the government to correct this injustice if there is political will to do so.

When Harapan came into power, unlike most people, I was (and still am) not obsessed about 1MDB. This country was a kleptocracy long before Najib Abdul Razak’s excesses sealed the regime's fate on May 9.

What interests me is how the state during the long Umno watch reshaped the demographics of this country. And what really bothers me is that there are people who have been living in a state of limbo for decades, while foreign nationals have been granted not just citizenship but the privileges that come with being of a certain race.

Now I do not want to sound like some sort of ethno-nationalist – I could not even if I wanted to, because of the racial politics at play here – but isn’t anyone else curious as to why we have a stateless persons issue when it seems that every other person of a particular religious persuasion got citizenship under Umno rule? Will the situation change?

When I read about this stateless issue, I become obsessed with the flip side – those granted citizenship with a stroke of the pen. The people who become part of the majority community, while Indians, Chinese, maybe even other Malays and the Orang Asal were denied their rights as citizens of this country.

This, of course, is not solely the crime of the Najib regime; it goes back a long time.....

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