HOME Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail has called for Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) to refrain from distorting the issue about the Bahasa Malaysia (BM) proficiency issue in the passport renewal process.
In fact, Saifuddin said the Malaysian Immigration Department (JIM) had never rejected any passport renewal application solely because of Malaysians’ poor proficiency in the national language.
“I’ve never said that one needs to master BM to get a passport. Don’t tell me I’m that naïve to understand such simple facts. LFL needs to stop distorting [the matter].
“The truth is that there are no applications that are rejected because of BM; in fact, we issued 2.3 mil passports alone this year.
“If a national passport holder, for example, does something wrong, such as overstaying, when re-applying for a passport, there must be a review, and it may end up getting rejected.
“If getting rejected because of BM…no,” Saifuddin was reported as saying by Harian Metro today (Dec 7).
Saifuddin went on to say that it is a citizen’s responsibility to master BM in accordance with its dignity as an official language as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
“What we emphasise is that every Malaysian citizen should be able to communicate in BM when dealing with the government officials.
“Whether it’s LFL or any other parties, do not distort [the truth about this issue] to make it seem as if the condition (for applying for a Malaysian passport) is proficiency in BM when we have never said something like this.”
“I encourage all citizens including LFL to prioritise BM first.”
Saifuddin was responding to LFL director Zaid Malek’s criticism of him for defending an immigration officer who reportedly mistreated by a lady due to her inability to speak BM during a passport renewal process in Johor.
Zaid 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 yesterday (Dec 6).
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 7, 2023