Lawyers group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today questioned the home minister’s recent statement that a thorough investigation is needed before Rohana Abdullah can be declared a citizen, saying she is one by right and should not have been categorised as stateless by his ministry to begin with.
In a statement, LFL also accused Hamzah Zainudin of “dilly-dallying” and prolonging Rohana’s statelessness “under the excuse of a lack of documents”.
“It is undisputed that Rohana was born in this country, has lived here all her life and has never even been to another country in her entire life,” it said.
“It is thus absurd for Hamzah to raise the issue of her father’s status which becomes irrelevant under the constitution because she is a foundling and is currently stateless.”
LFL had earlier this week called for a revamp of policies on stateless people in the wake of news on Rohana, who was abandoned as a baby and raised by kindergarten teacher Chee Hoi Lan.
Rohana had applied for citizenship in 2016 but received no response.
Hamzah later said in a Facebook post that he was “touched” by her story and was looking into her case.
LFL coordinator Zaid Malek however panned Hamzah’s statement that more documents would be needed before Rohana could be granted citizenship.
“The fact is, Rohana is by right a citizen and should have not been rendered stateless by the home ministry to begin with.
“The Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution unambiguously states that foundlings are citizens by operation of law. It is a constitutional right and not a discretion to be exercised at the whims of the home ministry.
“Further, any child like Rohana who is not born a citizen of any other country is automatically a citizen by virtue of Paragraph 1(e) of the 2nd Schedule,” he said.
In a statement, Zaid said that the burden to disprove her claim to citizenship lay with the authorities, adding that those like Rohana should not be left in “legal limbo” while a “supposed investigation” is underway.
Citing a recent case in the Federal Court, CCH & Anor v Pendaftar Besar bagi Kelahiran dan Kematian, Malaysia, he said Hamzah should be mindful of the rebuke delivered by the judge regarding “this kind of dilly-dallying in stateless cases”.
“There is no need to prolong Rohana’s plight any longer,” he said.
“Doing so would mean that the government is actively going against the clear letter of the constitution and the decision of the Federal Court on this matter.”
If Hamzah was truly “touched” by Rohana’s case, he said, the minister would simply have to ensure that the administrative machinery of the home ministry and National Registration Department follows the law.
“The home minister can resolve Rohana’s case with the stroke of a pen,” he said.
“There is no need for this empty bombast of an investigation, which seems geared to cover the home ministry’s own failures which caused Rohana’s statelessness.”