Lawyers for Liberty refers to the statement issued by the Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin stating that he is looking into the case of Rohana Abdullah, a stateless 22-year-old who was raised by her Chinese adoptive mother after being abandoned as a baby by her biological mother at a kindergarten.
We welcome his statement that he is taking action in this case and urge him to resolve Rohana’s status as a stateless person immediately. The facts are clear, and there is no need for lengthy investigations or bureaucratic processes. Rohana and her adoptive mother have suffered long enough.
Hamzah must realise that he himself as home minister bears heavy responsibility for the ordeal of tens of thousands of young people like Rohana who are unjustly deprived of citizenship.
We know hers is not an isolated case: there are tens of thousands of children and young adults who are in a similar situation as Rohana’s throughout the country, and their sufferings deserve equal attention.
The home minister should be reminded that Rohana and those like her are unfortunate victims of of deliberate bureaucratic processes that persistently fail to uphold the Federal Constitution, which accords foundlings citizenship by operation of law.
The impact that this has on them cannot be understated; being stateless deprives them of many opportunities in life, such as education, healthcare, and occupation.
The sad reality of it is that Rohana’s plight would have been left unnoticed had it not gained widespread national attention. The administrative machinery of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Registration Department cannot depend on news coverage of random cases, but must be resolved by ensuring that relevant state organs properly execute their function in accordance with the law.
Hence, if the home minister is truly “touched” by Rohana’s situation, as he claimed, we urge him to revamp the policies of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Registration Department so that others in similar situations would not be rendered stateless, in contravention of the Constitution.
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. Reactive solutions are inadequate. Statelessness must be addressed comprehensively and systematically at its root.
Zaid Malek is head coordinator of Lawyers for Liberty