LFL chides Saifuddin for language issue in passport renewal incident

LAWYERS for Liberty (LFL) has lambasted Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail for defending an immigration officer who mistreated a person for her inability to speak Bahasa Malaysia (BM) during a passport renewal process in Johor.

LFL director Zaid Malek said there is no such requirement that a Malaysian citizen routinely applying for a passport must show proficiency in BM and to impose such a condition is unlawful, high-handed and will create alarm amongst the public.

“He (Saifuddin) tried to rely on purported studies conducted by his ministry that claim that language proficiency is a requirement for citizenship in other countries.

“However, his reference to this is utterly misconceived as such a requirement would refer to citizenship by naturalisation or registration, which is entirely different from citizenship as a matter of law,” Zaid said in a statement today (Dec 6).

Zaid went on to say that the woman and her daughter, who by all accounts are Malaysian by virtue of the operation of the law, should not have been subjected to the harassment and ridicule they encountered from the officer.

“It is appalling that the minister would go to such lengths to defend the unlawful and high-handed actions of an immigration officer who went beyond his legal authority to scrutinise language proficiency which is irrelevant to the process of renewing passports.

“Neither the Home Minister nor any of the enforcement authorities under its purview can simply add stipulations beyond what is required under the law.

“It is imperative that the Home Ministry as an executive body ensure that the law and the Constitution are complied with.

“To that end, there must be an investigation and appropriate action taken against the immigration officer for their unlawful and outrageous conduct; the government must also make sure that all protocols in force in the Immigration Department are in compliance with the law.”

Recently, a woman went viral on social media for sharing her experience of renewing a passport at Urban Transformation Centre Johor. She claimed to have been ridiculed by a male staff member at the Immigration Office because of her lack of proficiency in BM when renewing her daughter’s passport.

She also highlighted the matter on social media. Although the posting is no longer available, it was reported that the woman explained that their poor command of BM was due to them residing in Singapore for a long time. – Dec 6, 2023

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