Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today called for a revamp of policies on stateless people, urging Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin not to react only to media coverage of individuals in the wake of his response to a young woman who was raised by her Chinese adoptive mother after being abandoned as a baby.
LFL coordinator Zaid Malek welcomed Hamzah’s statement that he was looking into the case of Rohana Abdullah but said that as home minister, Hamzah was responsible for “the ordeal of tens of thousands of young people like Rohana who are unjustly deprived of citizenship”.
“We know that her’s is not an isolated case. There are tens of thousands of children and young adults who are in similar situations as Rohana throughout the country and their sufferings deserve equal attention.
“It is not good enough to react to adverse news coverage on a single issue with promises of action, and then go back to ignoring the tens of thousands with similar problems like Rohana,” he said in a statement.
“Reactive solutions are inadequate. Statelessness must be addressed comprehensively and systematically at its root.”
Rohana, 22, was abandoned as a baby at the kindergarten where her biological mother, an Indonesian, worked as a cleaner.
She was taken in by kindergarten teacher Chee Hoi Lan who raised her as her own child.
In 2016, she applied for Malaysian citizenship but received no response.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Hamzah had said that he was “touched” by Rohana’s story.
“I have instructed my officers to investigate the validity of the information given before any decision is made,” he added.
Zaid said Hamzah should remember that Rohana and others like her are “unfortunate victims of deliberate bureaucratic processes that persistently fail to uphold the Federal Constitution, which accords foundlings citizenship by operation of law”.
“The sad reality of it is that Rohana’s plight would have been left unnoticed if it did not gain widespread national attention.
“The administrative machinery of the home ministry and National Registration Department cannot depend on news coverage on random cases, but must be resolved by ensuring that relevant state organs properly execute their function in accordance with the law.”