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450,000 stateless Indians in Malaysia, fact or fiction?

Contributors

contributor-hindrafToday it is generally taken for granted that there are good things that people are entitled to have and bad things that they can expect or hope to avoid. A wide, and ever-widening, range of such entitlements and immunities are supposed to belong to everyone, everywhere and at all times, purely as a consequence of our humanity (i.e. of the dignity and respect that are due to us as human beings).

Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. Article 15 of the United Nations ‘Universal Declaration on Human Rights’ gives everybody the right to a nationality: no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her nationality nor denied the right to change nationality. So any act by a nation of depriving a nationality to her inhabitants, that too up to 4th or 5th generation born must be regarded as a perpetual humanitarian crime.

Hindraf has on many occasions stated that there is an estimated 450,000 Malaysian- born Indians that have been rendered stateless as they have been denied citizenship status by the Malaysian government.

According to the Population and Housing Census of Malaysia 2010, there are 2,320,779 non-Malaysian citizens residing in Malaysia. However the general perception that is given is that this huge number consists of nothing but foreign workers like from Indonesia, Bangladesh, etc. In reality it is suspected that this figure of 2.3 million also includes a large number of Malaysian-born but stateless Indians.

During a series of focused group discussions held Aug 24-26, 2009 at Putrajaya with the deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department to review the Ninth Malaysia Plan period and provide recommendations for the Tenth Malaysia Plan, certain participants expressed tremendous distrust towards the official figures presented, particularly those on Malaysian Indians.

An outline paper was presented to the Economic Planning Unit in a special meeting chaired by EPU deputy director-general Mat Noor Nawi on Dec 24, 2009 highlighting citizenship documentation of the Malaysian Indians.

It was stated in the paper that there were no proper records of the cases and assistance seems extended to these Indians to be on an ad hoc basis. It was suggested that the government should undertake a comprehensive survey and document all the Malaysian Indian cases and analyse the root causes for this situation.

It was also suggested to enlist the cooperation of the National Registration Department whereby a focal point is established at the national and state levels, and to also undertake a quarterly review of the situation in order to ensure that between 2010 and 2011, at least 75 percent of the cases could be resolved.

It is already 2012 now and I’m afraid the stateless Indian numbers are still estimated to exceed 450,000.

To prove if this number is indeed fact or to discount it as fiction, one has to trace back to old records and reports of the population census of Malaysia.

Following the data trail

The United Nations had declared 1974 as World Population Year and as such the organization initiated within this framework the preparation of a series of monographs on the past, present and future population trends in various countries.

The Committee for International Co-ordination on National Research (Cicred) was given the responsibility of coordinating the preparation of the monographs. Malaysia submitted its report in December, 1975 which was edited by R. Chander, the chief statistician in the country’s Census and Demographic Division.

In the preface of this report Chander states “the presentation of past, present and future trends in Malaysia in this volume, form a useful synthesis of much of the knowledge accumulated by official censuses. Its value is enhanced by the effort made to demonstrate the relevance of population data for social planning”.

According to Cicred, each collaborating national institutional was commissioned a national monograph on the main dimensions of population growth and composition which serve today as a benchmark for studying demographic change in these countries over the last decades.

In short this report was done in a very comprehensive manner and would have been conducted very diligently. Its figures could represent an unbiased clearer picture of the Malaysian population today.

PROJECTED POPULATION BY COMMUNITY

The future population projection of Malaysia was calculated for each community for the years between 1970 and 1990. It was done based on several established standard assumptions and giving four different projections for each community based on:

Projection A: Fertility constant, 1970-1990.

Projection B: Fertility decline 10%, 1970-1990.

Projection C: Fertility decline 20%, 1970-1990.

Projection D: Fertility decline 30%, 1970-1990.

Based on these four different types of projections, the future population projection of the three main ethnic communities in Malaysia was estimated.

For 1990, the Malay community was estimated to number anywhere between 8,006,849 and 8,985,925.

According to Malaysian’s actual population census carried out in 1991, the Malays numbered 8,521,906. This is well within the estimated range projected by the 1975 reported prepared by Chandler and submitted to Cicred.

The Chinese community was estimated to number anywhere between 4,512,199 and 5,487,349. The Malaysian population census of 1991 gave the figure of 4,623,882. Again well within the estimated range.

The Indian community was estimated to number anywhere between 1,491,949 and 1,660,575. The official census of 1991 counted 1,316,086 Indians. This is very much lower than the estimated range.

Meaning the Indian community was around 250,000-300,000 persons less than the estimated number projected by the chief statistician of Malaysia in 1975. How is that so when he was well on the mark on the estimates of the Malay and Chinese communities?

Chandler was way off mark on the 1990 estimate of the Indian community reported to the United Nations committee. Furthermore the estimate given was for the year 1990 but the official population census carried out a good year after that, in 1991. (Malaysia’s population census is conducted once very 10 years – 1970, 1980 1991, 2000 and 2010.)

Despite the external migration of the Chinese community which was far greater compared with the Indian community, Chandler had still been on target with his projection of the ethnic Chinese population numbers in Malaysia. His projection on the ethnic Indian population figure should by right have been accurate yet the 1991 census numbers fell short notwithstanding the fact that the Indian fertility level was far higher than the Chinese’s.

The answer to this anomaly is very simple.

As of 1991, there were at least 250,000 to 300,000 ethnic Indians who had been denied citizenship status in Malaysia for whatever reasons. That was in 1991. Today after 21 years, that number must surely be more than 450,000 at the very least.

Just try asking any Malaysian Indian that you meet whether they know of anyone among their friends or relatives who do not possess valid citizenship documents? Chances are, more often than not, their answer will be ‘Yes’. The numbers are that staggering!

At least once a week you will come across articles in the Tamil newspapers about an Indian family or individuals here and there who do not have MyKad and about Indian children who are unable to attend primary school because they have no birth certificate, etc.

Which political party or NGO is truly fighting for these stateless Malaysian Indians?

Which elected representative has brought this matter to parliament or requested for a Royal Commission on this humanitarian crime on innocent, poor people? What have you as an individual done about this?

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