Home Ministry Scores Own Goal In Citizenship For Footballers


 


Citizenship has always been a contentious issue. Although the majority of Malaysians are citizens by birth or by operation of law, there are many whose status remains as stateless.
Every now and then, cries labelling certain sections of the population as pendatang (migrant) are heard – from politicians and their ilk who use it as a weapon when their arsenal is near empty.
There are thousands of Malaysians who were born in this country and yet have not been accorded citizenship for various reasons.
The latest is the case of Hew Ling Poa, a 52-year-old grandmother. She remains puzzled why she still holds a permanent resident (PR) status, despite both her parents being Malaysian.
Her younger brother is Malaysian, her late husband is Malaysian, her 25-year-old daughter is Malaysian, and her grandchild is Malaysian. However, Hew, now in her 50s, is still holding a red identity card.
There are similar tales of woe all over the country, but there seems to be no political will to solve the problem.
The fight for automatic citizenship for overseas-born children of Malaysian mothers is now in the Federal Court.
In September last year, the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that the government must grant citizenship to children born abroad to Malaysian mothers as the word “father” in the Second Schedule of the Constitution must mean and include mothers.
However, on Aug 5, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision stating that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers can be denied citizenship by operation of the law.
In the appellate court, judge Kamaludin Md Said and judge Azizah Nawawi took the view that the word “father” in the Second Schedule of Part II of the Federal Constitution meant biological father and cannot be extended to include mother or parents.
Naturalised footballers
While waiting for the Federal Court hearing, a turn of events took place on Merdeka Day when British-born footballer Lee Tuck announced that he had become a naturalised citizen.
He is a footballer playing for Pahang FC since 2017, and his citizenship application appears to have been fast-tracked.
But Tuck is not the first. Before him, fellow Briton Sam Somerville, Guilherme de Paula from Brazil and Liridon Krasniqi from Kosovo were granted citizenship. All three arrived in Malaysia in 2016-2017 to play in the national football league. In short, like Tuck, they have been in Malaysia for about four to five years.
British-born footballer Lee TuckHere is the shocker: From 2014 to 2021, 25 players have been naturalised, eight of whom had no stints with either Harimau Malaya or junior national teams.
This means football officials have apparently used their influence or pulled strings to get citizenship for players without meeting the basic prerequisites for their applications to be processed.
Article 19(3) of the Federal Constitution states that: “The periods of residence in the Federation or the relevant part of it which are required for the grant of a certificate of naturalisation are periods which amount in the aggregate to not less than 10 years in the 12 years immediately preceding the date of the application for the certificate, and which include the 12 months immediately preceding that date.”
According to the Home Ministry’s website, citizenship by naturalisation is for those who fulfil the minimum residency requirements and have adequate knowledge of the Malay language (the residency requirement has been outlined above).
Close one eye
I raised this issue in a column on the three last year and asked: “So, did the ministry breach its own rules and fast-track their applications? Was it not a dereliction of their duties or was it a case of tutup satu mata (close one eye)?”
So, what’s the beef with the 52-year-old grandmother who has lived in Malaysia for 47 years? Why can’t she be given citizenship? What about the mothers who want their children to be recognised as citizens?
If the explanation is that the footballers are professionals and are in the same league as Ronaldo or Mo Salah, it is gibberish.
The footballers who come to our shores seeking to make a fortune are journeymen who can find a place in leagues in their own countries. Most are represented by agents who peddle their wards to minor leagues in Asia.
Neither the Home Ministry nor its officials responded to the article last year because they could not provide plausible explanations for the decisions.
This was despite my adding of a footnote that the minister cannot sit on a pedestal and remain silent and should provide answers for the many wrongdoings in his ministry.
I don’t expect any response this time around, but I hope lawmakers will continue pushing for answers.
Hopefully, during the next parliamentary sitting, some light will be shed on the double standards practised by the ministry. - Mkini
R NADESWARAN is a veteran journalist who writes on bread-and-butter issues. Comments: [email protected]
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.


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