KUALA LUMPUR: A DAP lawmaker has pleaded with the government to work with opposition leaders to find a concrete solution to the issue of stateless Indians in the country.
Klang Member of Parliament Charles Santiago said that while the nationwide registration exercise conducted by Putrajaya is commendable, the government must up its efforts, as there are still many Indians who are stateless.
"The government launched the MyDaftar initiative in Feb 2011, and more recently, a Mega MyDaftar in June 2017, to resolve documentation issues faced by the Indian community.
"Six years down the line, the issue shows no signs of ending. For every one Indian who registers, there may be three who don't, due to various external factors.
"The government must therefore consult all stakeholders, including the opposition, to find a concrete solution to effectively tackle the issue of stateless Indians," he told a press conference at Parliament here on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the government's MyDaftar programme had effectively proven the opposition’s claim that “300,000 Indians in the country are stateless” as false.
Najib said the comprehensive, nationwide MyDaftar programme saw 7,261 stateless members of the Indian community coming forward to apply for citizenship, with the vast majority of cases solved.
Najib said the government he leads is committed to solving the issue of Malaysian Indian citizenship, and has set up the Special Implementation Task Force (SITF) under the Special Unit for Socio-Economic Development of the Indian Community (SEDIC), which implemented the MyDaftar initiative in 2011.
The Mega MyDaftar initiative was launched early this year, in tandem with the Malaysian Indian Blueprint to solve the Malaysian Indian citizenship issue.
Although the opposition is still defending its claim that 300,000 Indians are stateless, Santiago said he accepts the figure given by Najib.
"It doesn't matter whether it's 300,000 or 20,000 or 7,000. I am not going to argue with him (Najib) on this. But there's a problem here and we must solve it."
Santiago cited the story of one woman, Puspavalli Rathinam, who according to him, applied for citizenship in 2014.
He said Puspavalli managed to get her birth certificate and applied for her identification card in March this year, but the status of the application is still pending.
According to Santiago, this resulted in Puspavalli's 14-year-old son, Velalagan being stateless and not eligible for free text books at school.
"This is a poor family and they live in a rented low-cost flat," he added.