The government's decision to grant citizenship to stateless people aged 60 and above would not resolve the problem of stateless people in Malaysia, said Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) advisor N Surendran.
Apart from policy changes, he called for a total review of the Home Ministry and National Registration Department's (NRD) procedures for granting citizenship.
“The policies, operating procedures and methodologies must be thoroughly reviewed and restructured by the new government.
“It is the inflexible and unnecessary demands for non-existent documents, evidence and witnesses insisted upon by the ministry and NRD which are responsible for both creating and perpetuating the problem of statelessness in Malaysia.
“(And we must) reach out to the thousands of stateless persons who have difficulty dealing with the bureaucracy and stringent procedures of the NRD,” he added in a statement this morning.
Surendran, who is also PKR member, directed his argument at Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that the government would grant immediate citizenship to the stateless aged 60 and above.
'Figure just the tip of the iceberg'
This included the 3,407 stateless Indians who were brought to his attention by Pakatan Harapan MPs.
However, Surendran said the figure was just the tip of the iceberg.
The former Padang Serai MP pointed out that many stateless seniors had given up on applying for citizenship after they were previously rejected.
“The 3,407 cases are pending applications for blue ICs left over from the BN era. They do not comprise the total number of Indians over age 60 who hold red ICs.
“Most of the others have not put in any application with the NRD, or have given up after having been wrongly rejected due to BN policies. They now live in the limbo of statelessness,” he added.
Mahathir also said younger applicants would be granted citizenship provided they fulfil the criteria, for example, someone who was born in Malaysia where one of the parents is a Malaysian.
Commenting on this, Surendran said the criteria was “irrelevant” because administrative hurdles were a bigger issue.
“Most stateless persons are those who already qualify to be citizens by 'operation of law' under Article 14 of the Federal Constitution, but are denied citizenship because they have either inadequate or no documents, are abandoned or adopted children, or their parents' marriage was not registered.
“The problem is generational. Parents and grandparents have no identification documents at all or only red ICs, although born and residing in Malaysia and entitled to citizenship," he added.