Lawyers for Liberty refers to the statement issued by the Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin recently where he stated a thorough investigation and further documents are necessary before Rohana Abdullah can be declared a citizen.
It is shocking that despite expressing concern for Rohana’s predicament, the home minister still prolongs her statelessness under the excuse of a lack of documents.
It is undisputed that Rohana was born in this country, has lived here all her life and has never even been to another country in her entire life. It is thus absurd for Hamzah to raise the issue of her father’s status, which becomes irrelevant under the Constitution because she is a foundling and is currently stateless.
The fact is, Rohana is by right a citizen and should have not been rendered stateless by the Ministry of Home Affairs to begin with.
The Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution unambiguously states that foundlings are citizens by operation of law; it is a constitutional right and not a discretion to be exercised at the whims of the ministry. Further, any child like Rohana who is not born a citizen of any other country is automatically a citizen by virtue of para 1(e) of the Second Schedule.
The burden to disprove her claim citizenship is on the authorities, but victims like Rohana must not be left in legal limbo while a supposed ‘investigation’ is under way.
In this regard, the home minister must take cognisance of the strong rebuke delivered upon the ministry by the Chief Justice in the recent Federal Court citizenship case in CCH & Anor v Pendaftar Besar bagi Kelahiran dan Kematian, Malaysia  for this kind of dilly dallying in stateless cases.
There is no need to prolong Rohana’s plight any longer. Doing so would mean that the government is actively going against the clear letter of the Constitution and the decision of the Federal Court on this matter.
We stress that if the home minister is truly “touched” by Rohana’s case, he simply has to ensure that the administrative machinery of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Registration Department follows the law.
The home minister can resolve Rohana’s case with the stroke of a pen. There is no need for this empty bombast of an investigation, which seems geared to cover the ministry’s own failures, which caused Rohana’s statelessness.
Thus, we urge the home minister to immediately ensure that Rohana is registered as a Malaysian citizen, as is her right. He must also revamp the standard operating procedures in the Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Registration Department so that similar cases are resolved speedily as well to avoid the recurrence of children and young persons being rendered stateless in the future.
Zaid Malek is head coordinator of Lawyers for Liberty