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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Stateless Indians march to NRD office


Officials set up a special counter to facilitate their application for citizenship papers.
GEORGE TOWN: About 50 stateless people of Indian origin marched for 100 metres and demonstrated peacefully before submitting their applications for citizenship documents to the National Registration Department (NRD) today.
They included several senior citizens and children and they carried banners and chanted slogans.
They marched from a KFC outlet in Jalan Larut to the state NRD office, located in a federal building in Jalan Anson.
They demonstrated for about five minutes outside the building, accompanied by PKR vice-president N Surendran, Penang PKR vice-chairman S Raveentharan, PKR Bayan Baru chief Sim Tze Tzin and Penang DAP secretary Ng Wei Aik.
“These people are not here to apply for citizenship, but to get their MyKad and birth certificates,” Surendran told newsmen.
There was a slight commotion when some policemen tried to stop the group from entering the building and threatened to arrest them.
Surendran condemned the action, calling it an abuse of power.
The policemen gave in after Surendran told them it would be a violation of citizens’ rights to prevent them from submitting their applications.
NRD set up a special counter for the applicants.
Quoting Article 14 of the Federal Constitution, Surendran said anyone born in Malaysia would be automatic citizens.
“There are hundreds of thousands of stateless persons out there with red identity cards and no proper documentation despite being born here,” he added.
He urged the federal government to cut bureaucratic red tape and carry out a nationwide project to grant citizenship to such stateless people.
Natural birthright
About half of the demonstrators managed to submit their applications today. The others were told to return with documents that would support their applications.
The oldest among the applicants was K Packiam, who turned 93 last Saturday. She was born in Kuala Kurau, but her identity card is red.
“I have applied so many times but never was given a blue IC,” she said. “I don’t know why.”
Packiam’s twin daughters, Ramaie and Letchumanan, both 57 today, also carry red ICs. However, her other four children all have blue ICs.
A 10-year-old girl, M Sasikala, wept as she spoke about being unable to attend school for lack of a birth certificate.
Her parents are separated and she lives with her grandparents in Nibong Tebal.
“I just want to go to school and study,” she said.
Raveentharan said it was a serious violation of constitutional rights for the government to deny Malaysian-born Indians their right to citizenship and basic education.
“It’s their natural birthright to get their birth certificates, blue ICs and elementary education,” he said. “The government should uphold these rights for all.”
He said PKR would continue with its cross-country campaign to get citizenship for stateless people.

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