DOES the Home Minister of the Madani government Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail know the laws pertaining to the citizenship in the country?
When did the Federal government come to have exclusive rights on the granting of citizenship to those eligible?
Saifuddin’s recent statement that the government is in the midst of reviewing the applications of 9,000 applicants for citizenship might contravene the law.
It is not that Saifuddin is unaware that Article 14 of the Federal Constitution that establishes criteria for acquiring Malaysian citizenship. Given this constitutional requirement, the government cannot usurp what has already been granted by the Federal Constitution.
Yet Saifuddin mentioned that the exclusive right of granting citizenship lies with the federal government.
Perhaps this would explain why hundreds and thousands of applications for citizenship who might have passed the constitutional requirement but yet denied by the national registration department (JPN).
One of the major reasons why there is long wait for citizenship in the country is because the government has arrogated powers that are not in consistent with the Federal Constitution.
Arbitrary granting of citizenship
The proposed amendment to citizenship laws is another instance where the government has gone beyond the constitutional requirements. It is feared that the proposed amendments might render the citizenship laws much more stringent than the existing laws.
But I thought that Saifuddin who is a minister in the Madani government should not be reminded of the need for reforms in the citizenship laws that are congruent with the Federal Constitution.
But why is the retrograde move not in the direction of reforms but to make the law much tighter and oppressive?
Court decisions that have sought to question the government’s high-handedness in rejecting citizenship applications is an example of the incongruence between what is prescribed in the Federal Constitution and what is taken for granted by the government.
It is the lack of constitutional oversight on citizenship matters that allowed the government through the JPN to exercise disproportionate powers in denying citizenship to those qualified under the law.
If foreign soccer players can have such an easy access in becoming permanent residents, why eligible applicants have to endure the long and arduous process of waiting to be given the status?
Does the Federal Constitution accord special powers to the government in making exceptions to foreign soccer players or foreign preachers? What is required is not so much reforms pertaining to the granting of citizenship but asking the government to adhere to the constitutional requirements.
The days of government knows the best is over. The public expect constitutional safeguards to prevail not the whims and fancies of governments in power. – Oct 4, 2023
Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the former DAP state assemblyman for Perai. He is also the former deputy chief minister of Penang.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main pic credit: Malay Mail