Press Statement 
by MP for Seputeh and DAP International Secretary, Teresa Kok 
in Kuala Lumpur 
on Friday, 27th September 2002

The Government is Urged to Seriously Review the Inclusion of the Information Of Marital Status and Voting Constituency on Mykad 

The proposal to include marital status and voting constituency on Mykad by the Prime Minister cum Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in his budget speech last week need to be seriously reviewed and debated before it is implemented because it creates unnecessary trouble to Mykad holders and is an intrusion into cardholders' privacy.

The reasons given by the Prime Minister in his budget speech were to "enable the enforcement authorities not to mistakenly apprehend people for close proximity" and in order that "certain party cannot shift voters easily".

On the reason of inclusion of marital status, it is to ensure that Muslim married couples would not be wrongly apprehended by the religious authorities. But does this mean that the name of one's husband or wife (or wives) will be listed on MyKad as well since the religious authorities will not be able to differentiate between lawful and unlawful close proximity without this additional information?

Besides, Muslims who are married already have an additional identification card which states their marital status and the names and identities of their spouses. This being the case, why should the information of marital status be incorporated into Mykad?

The incorporation of marital information status could be discriminatory, particularly women who are listed as divorcees. Unwed mothers might be discriminated against in areas like job applications and promotion. Furthermore, it could also cause these women to be ridiculed and scorned in their workplace. The inclusion of such personal information in Mykad will aggravate the already quite acute social stigma faced by people who have gone through painful and unsuccessful marriages and relationships and want to start a new life.

The Registration and Adoption Act 1952 allows for the removal of the status of an adopted child from the birth certificate to prevent the child from facing discrimination and ridicule when he grows up. If the government can take the adopted children's feelings and problems into consideration and omit the word 'adopted child' from the birth certificate, why can't the Government respect adults who don't want to reveal their marital status on their identity cards, which is a private matter?

Concerning the inclusion of voting constituency on Mykad, the reason given by the Prime Minister, i.e. to prevent political parties from shifting voters, is unacceptable and problematic. Some of the problems that will emerge from such a move are:

  1. The boundaries and names of both Parliament and state constituencies in the country will be changed every 8 years in redelineation exercises carried out by the Election Commission (EC). Does this mean that every citizen must change his or her Mykad every 8 years? Isn't this a hassle to many citizens in the country?
  2. Has the National Registration Department (NRD) replace the role of the EC and carry out a de facto re-registration of all voters in Malaysia? So, do non-voters who have obtained or changed their identity cards to Mykad (which has the constituency name on it) still need to register as voters at the post office? Will both the Parliament and state constituencies be stated in Mykad in future? Is the NRD being appointed as the Chief Registering Officer for Malaysia and its staff registering officers in line with Article 8 of the Elections Acts 1958? How will the NRD officers determine which constituency a certain individual is registered in? In many instances, people who stay in the same street are voters in different constituencies. Will the EC then recognize the constituency stated by the NRD on Mykad although the address concerned might come under different constituencies in the electoral role. How will the Election Commission resolve such a problem?
  3. In Malaysia, there are about 8 million voters who can still vote in the constituency which they are currently registered in even though their IC address show a different area from their registered voting constituency. Will these voters who have changed their ICs into Mykad (which might show a new voting constituency) be allowed to cast vote in their original constituency?
  4. Will the inclusion of voting constituency be used to discriminate against voters who are from constituencies noted to be the Opposition's stronghold, especially those in the civil service?

It is clear that inserting additional information of marital status and voting constituency into the new Mykad is likely to be a further intrusion into the privacy of Malaysians. Citizens in the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand have protested against the introduction of such identity cards because of the fear that the information given to the government will be misused.

In a heavily policed state such as Malaysia, having such additional information on Mykad is very unnecessary and unwarranted. Besides, putting all vital information into the Mykad microchip had also put card holders at risk when their card is stolen or lost. The series of cases where money have been stolen after information in ATM cards were scanned by special card reading devices placed at ATM machines by unscrupulous crooks serve as a clear warning to us of the possibility of the data of Mykad holders being read and misused.

Therefore, I urge the Government to review the policy of putting marital status and voting constituency on Mykad to ensure that there is no unjustified intrusion into matters considered as falling within the private sphere of the Malaysian citizenry.