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2008 Oct 11 - No power to grant or take away the citizenship of a person

No power to grant or take away the citizenship of a person

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 law.

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 document.

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 citizenship.

Datuk Eric Majimbun
11th October, 2008


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