Upon achieving Independence, the new Government of Malaya initiated a work permit system wherein Chinese and Indian immigrants, who had been brought in as labourers, were required to register in order to become citizens of Malaya. An estimated one-fifth of Indians, many of whom were estate workers, failed to register for the work permit which later granted citizenship, due to a combination of geographic isolation, ignorance, illiteracy and procedural challenges. According to an NGO active in this space, an estimated 12,300 people of Indian ethnicity are currently stateless, while another 13,000 people of Indian ethnicity face documentation problems.
Key Issues & Current Interventions
- An undocumented child or youth cannot officially enroll in Government schools; many receive their education from homeschooling NGOs or go without education.
- Procedures can also be revised to reduce lengthy processing times; The relatively high cost of citizenship application is also a challenge. The duration for processing of a citizenship application can also take months, if not years. Applicants are frequently required to travel to NRD offices, which cost them time and money. Rejected applicants are often not informed of the reasons for their applications being rejected.
- The NRD also experiences a large number of uncollected approved citizenship certificates. Information on the whereabouts of applicants are not always updated, creating difficulties in contacting them and resulting in failure of collection.
- The MIB Implementation Unit will need to constitute a team sufficient in size, authority and capacity to work together with NRD and the Home Ministry on policy and processes as well as to collaborate effectively with field partners.
Moving Forward: Recommendations & Initiatives
To deliver on these targets, this Blueprint aims to effect the following:
1. Establish a National Temple Database
A collaboration between the MIB Implementation Unit, the Department of Urban and Rural Planning (“JPBD”), local councils, State Governments and key NGOs will be instituted to create an extensive temple database which tracks all temples, pre-empting any issues that may arise in the future.
2. Establish monitoring modality for religious institutions
MIB Implementation Unit will undertake a consultative study towards establishing a platform or means by which the social contribution and fiduciary duties of temples and other Malaysian Indian religious institutions may be assessed.
3. Increase supply of public halls and tolerance for shared space usage
As CCIC continues to monitor the completion of the promised community halls and crematoriums, existing multipurpose halls, schools and temples in high Indian-populated areas will be identified for the use of the community. Unit will also collaborate with the Department of Urban and Rural Planning (“JPBD”) and state governments to revise building design guidelines for low cost and medium cost housing developments, particularly flats. Moreover, to complement the above, the unit will implement initiative to improve inter-religious understanding and tolerance, including in the use of shared spaces.