The Home Ministry, through the Immigration Department, has full discretion when it comes to issuing permanent resident (PR) status in Malaysia, according to lawyers.
"The permanent residence, in Malaysia we call it an entry permit. It is under the Immigration Act.
"It is the immigration's discretion (to issue PRs)," said lawyer K Shanmuga to Malaysiakini today.
The provision under the Immigration Act which provides for the entry permits is Section 10, he explained, is very vague.
That particular provision gives the Immigration Department a lot of discretion regarding entry permits, he said.
But, once you have an entry permit, you can go to the National Registration Department to be declared a PR and given a red identity card, he added.
Fellow lawyer Latheefa Koya agreed that the power to issue PR status in Malaysia is quite discretionary.
"There may be some basic requirements, but generally it is for the Home Ministry to provide (PR status).
"At the end of the day, it is the home minister who has the ultimate say to grant whoever (a PR)," she said.
According to the Immigration Department website, there are four categories for entry permit applications, which are investors and experts, professionals, spouses and children below six of Malaysian citizens and through a point system.
The website for the Home Ministry also says that if an entry permit application is rejected by the Immigration Department director-general, then the individual can appeal to the ministry by writing a petition within 30 days of the notice of refusal.
Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi revealed yesterday that Islamic preacher Zakir Naik has had permanent resident status in Malaysia since five years ago.
Zakir had said last Sunday that he was willing to be questioned by investigators from India on "neutral ground" such as Malaysia.
India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) is seeking an Interpol red notice against Zakir.
Zakir has been a frequent visitor to Indonesia and Malaysia of late, and is believed to be based in Saudi Arabia.
Several Malaysian activists have filed a suit to compel Putrajaya to bar Zakir from entering Malaysia on the grounds that his speeches are a threat to national security, harmony and unity.- Mkini