Regime change after the 14th General Elections, and yet dark hidden hands still prevail in discriminatory and selective awarding of citizenship to ‘celebrities’ instead of deserving applicants who have waited for decades to be Malaysians

It must have been a thrilling day for Liridon Krasniqi who was conferred the highest award any person could receive – to be a citizen of Malaysia. No Golden Boot will ever come close to claiming ownership to the light blue MyKad and the red passport bearing the national crest in gold lines.

Krasniqi came to Malaysia and played for the Kedah team on 9 April 2015 and has been riding on a wave of football stardom till now, for about 5 years and received his citizenship in Putrajaya through naturalisation, supported by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).

If it is indeed true that Liridon Krasniqi obtained his citizenship through naturalisation, a quick check against the Federal Constitution will indicate clearly in Article 19(3) that “The periods of residence in the Federation or the relevant part of it which are required for the grant of a certificate of naturalization are periods which amount in the aggregate to not less than ten years in the twelve years immediately preceding the date of the application for the certificate, and which include the twelve months immediately preceding that date.”

Obviously, the application for citizenship through naturalisation has been expedited by hidden hands, (whatever the reason or urgency) for Krasniqi to call himself Malaysian.

While many Malaysians are thrilled that Krasniqi will be part of the Harimau Malaya squad, many more men and women, as old as in their 80s and 90s as well as babies who are still waiting patiently for their MyKad so they can proudly claim to be a Malaysian feel betrayed and misled into thinking that they too, will be Malaysians one day.

He is not the first to enjoy the privileges of being a darling of the establishment. Ragad Waleed Al-Kurdi’s citizenship came in at whirlwind speed – a citizen in 6 years and to have voted in GE13 and in the Sarawak State Elections in 2016. And “Mat Dan” a British citizen who won the hearts of the people of Terengganu with his proficiency and charm in mastering the dialect when he visited Malaysia in 2009. He converted to be Muslim in 2013 and married a Malaysian in 2017 and received his Permanent Residence status from the then Home Minister Zahid Hamidi in February 2018, much to his surprise. And let us not forget how Zakir Naik’s PR for his wife and all his children had been obtained within ‘minutes’ in KDN with VIP treatment under the instruction of Barisan Nasional leaders.

The glaring conflict and inconsistency is how citizenship for a foreign footballer had bypassed requirements in such a hurried manner versus the thousands who are still waiting to call themselves Malaysians remains a dream and even sometimes a nightmare, is truly mystifying and incomprehensible.

In my Parliament question last year, up to September 2019, the Welfare Department recorded 1933 stateless children had been placed in homes all over the country, 1098 boys and 835 girls; of which 1401 are Malay children, 148 Indians and 80 Chinese. 864 children are from the age of 15 to 18 and 94 children fall into the 5-6 category. Normally it is the responsibility of the caretaker or the operator of the home to apply for citizenship for these innocent children born in Malaysia.

In the event these children are not awarded citizenship by the age of 18, they step out into the world as undocumented, stateless and status-less children.

We have then to admit that we have failed these innocent, pure children.

Aren’t the lives and the future of our own children, born here, just as important as a star footballer, or a religious preacher or a video blogger with an accent? How will they hope against all hope that the system that has neglected them is the very system that is going to award them a place in Malaysia?

While it is commended that the National Registration Department (NRD) in the Home Ministry is expediting processing and approving more than 30,000 applications of children for citizenship under Article 15A, the elephant in the room is the selective awarding of citizenship to the popular, prominent, famous and trendy ‘celebrities’. In spite of a regime change after the 14th General Elections, dark hidden hands seem to prevail and monopolise the awarding of citizenship to certain people, bending rules and also contradicting the spirit of laws in the country that unfortunately everyone else is subject to.

I urge the agency that had processed and approved Krasniqi’s citizenship in record time to apply the same SOP or modus operandi to the thousands of people who have applied for citizenship and have been waiting for decades, and for those who have been born in Malaysia – denied their right to education and affordable healthcare to become Malaysian citizens for them to hold their heads high as a Bangsa Malaysia in a Malaysia Baharu.

Kasthuri Patto
DAP WANITA INTERNATIONAL SECRETARY, MEMBER OF THE PARLIAMENTARY SPECIAL SELECT COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS AND GENDER EQUALITY & MP FOR BATU KAWAN
Media statement by Kasthuri Patto in Batu Kawan on Thursday, 6th February 2020