No Malay language requirement for passport renewal; Minister Saifudin must apologise to woman

AS I HAVE said previously, the Madani government of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is no better than the earlier Barisan Nasional (BN) or the short-lived Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

Anwar’s loyalists and lieutenants in the government are always one step ahead to appease the Malay right wing forces. Take the case of an immigration officer who scolded a woman who could not speak Malay when she went to renew her passport.

Mind you, she was not applying for citizenship but merely applying for the renewal of her expired international passport. The very fact she had a passport meant that she was citizen by law or registration and that she had passed the language requirement before.

The overzealous officer could have politely told her to improve her Malay rather than scolding her. Maybe she could have spent some years overseas without speaking Malay. The very fact that she had passport meant she already qualified as a citizen.

There is nothing in the law or government regulations that stipulates that a person renewing the passport must be proficient in Malay or must have passed a language examination. I hope the Immigration Department would look into incident to reprimand the officer concerned as he had no right to scold the woman.

Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy

Two wrongs don’t make a right

Obviously, the officer was not well-versed in the law regarding procedures on passport renewals. He was just an overzealous Little Napoleon who took the law into his own hands.

The worst part of the episode was the manner in which the Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail reacted to the incident. He was quick on the draw to defend the immigration officer for doing the right thing.

Saifuddin who was brought into the government through the door of Senate said that the immigration officer was right in scolding the woman for not able to speak Malay as he was suspicious.

Two wrongs don’t make a right – the immigration officer scolding the woman for not knowing Malay and the unnecessary defence of the officer by none other high level cabinet minister Saifuddin.

It was the same Saifuddin who defended the police earlier for saying that the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) was necessary to check crimes. He probably forgot that the Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) election manifesto called for among other things, the removal of the country’s draconian laws including SOSMA.

Coming back to the issue of passport renewal, surely Saifuddin despite his eagerness to be popular with the Malay civil servants has failed to distinguish what is required by the law. He needs to be reminded that he or the country’s civil servants should not play language politics when it comes to public interest.

Pic credit: Malaysiakini

Seek legal advice first

Rather than shooting his mouth. Saifuddin should have investigated the incident. He should have been advised by the government’s legal team that there is no Malay or language requirement test for the mere renewal of passport.

The requirement for proficiency in Malay comes at the beginning stage of the application for citizenship and not after.

The woman who applied for a passports renewal could have lost touch with Malay for various reasons. She could have been in overseas with her children or relatives. But the point is that there is no language requirement for renewal of passport.

I hope that Saifuddin would have the responsibility and good sense to apologise to the affected woman and to the public. There was no reason or rhyme for him as minister to blindly defend the immigration officer for being rude to the woman.

Next time around, who knows, some Little Napoleons would have their own laws to approve or deny citizenship. Most the ministers in the Madani government are not up to their mark.

The ugly episode of the immigration officer scolding the woman for not speaking Malay and the subsequent uncalled for defence of the officer by Saifuddin speaks volumes of the gap between the public and civil servants.

Perhaps, Saifuddin was motivated to defend the immigration officer after his boss Anwar called for government departments to reject letters written other than Malay. It was same Anwar who later called Malaysians to give priority to English as the language of science and international communication.

It is fine by the cabinet ministers to outdo Anwar on matters of race, religion and language. But the ministers must understand the issues at hand before they open their big mouths.

I call upon Saiffudin to tender his apology to the woman who was scolded by the immigration officer. As it is, the Malaysian civil service is noted for its inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Incidents like the above further scars the civil service. – Dec 6, 2023


Former DAP stalwart and Penang chief minister II Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is chairman of the Urimai Interim Council.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Main pic credit: Newswav

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