Kota Kinabalu (11th October, 2008): I refer to the statement of the Home
Minister in "The Star" newspapers on 10th October, 2008 with the heading
"Sabahan gets citizenship back after 20 months."
The Minister is reported to have said that "he had directed NRD to
make it clear that applying for permanent resident status and
citizenship were not a right but a privilege." He had earlier said that
there were 30,000 applications involving locals and that he had decided
to grant citizenship to Yong because it was a deserving case.
With respect, our comment is as follows. When Sabah formed Malaysia in
1963 together with Sarawak and Singapore, it was expressly agreed that
all Sabahans, whether native Sabahans or otherwise shall be
automatically entitled to citizenship of the Federation.
This was inserted into the Malaysia Agreement and the amended Federal
Constitution. Sabahans like Yong are therefore citizens by operation of
Therefore the question of the Home Minister "restoring" or "granting"
her citizenship is therefore absolutely ridiculous as he has no power to
grant or take away the citizenship of a person who is a citizen by
operation of law.
It is the law that determines whether a local Sabahan is a citizen
and it has agreed in the Malaysia Agreement and the Federal Constitution
that all Sabahans are citizens. Therefore any suggestion that the locals
who apply for recognition of their status as citizens through MyKad
applications should understand that it is a "privilege" and not a
"right" is completely wrong.
This is because even if a local Sabahan did not bother to obtain an
identity card, he is still nonetheless a citizen by operation of law.
After all, the identity card regulations do not govern citizenship
status of a person. Identity cards originated as an emergency measure
adopted during the Communist insurgency to weed out and identify
subversives. Since then it has become a useful and convenient identity
However, for genuine citizens, their status of citizenship cannot
depend on the whim and fancy of the NRD if they decide to replace their
MyKad with a MyPR card. As far as non-Malaysians are concerned, the
Minister is right in sayin that the applications for PR or citizenship
are a privilege. However, for Malaysians, we would urge the authorities
to understand it is an absolute right to obtain a Mykad that denotes
Datuk Eric Majimbun
11th October, 2008