Friday, April 18, 2014
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Stateless Indians: The eye cannot see what the mind refuses to know


contributor-hindrafI thank Datuk R. Chander, the former Chief Statistician of Malaysia, on his article titled ‘The Numbers Game: Stateless Indians in Malaysia’. This article was written in response to my article titled ‘450,000 stateless Indians in Malaysia, fact or fiction?’

Though I do agree with Datuk Chander that this issue concerns numbers but to the hundreds of thousand Indians in Malaysia suspected to be stateless who are deprived of basic necessities in their everyday life, this critical issue would certainly not be considered a ‘game’.

Datuk Chander reveals that a large volume of data like citizenship status and birthplace had been collected in the censuses from 1970 to 2010 and is available to the public. He expresses surprise that the government (MyDaftar) or independent researchers did not utilize this to make a thorough study regarding the stateless Indians in Malaysia. He adds that a careful review of the data will remove the need for conjecture or guesswork as to the magnitude of the problem of undocumented Indians.

He also advised everyone to take advantage of the extensive work done by Professor Saw Swee Hock who had analysed data from the various censuses.

Hindraf should take the lead and approach the Department of Statistics (DOS) Malaysia to collect this rich data and make it available for a detailed and comprehensive analysis to be carried out by the experts in this field. I sincerely hope the DOS does not give excuses regarding this matter so that it can still be considered to ‘enjoy a high degree of credibility’ as what Datuk Chander claims it to have.

Datuk Chander may dispute the alleged 450,000 stateless Indian figure but he concedes that stateless Indians do exist in Malaysia. He says that it could be due to the inability of these people to produce documentation proving birth in Malaysia as well as the rather inflexible approach adopted by the authorities on this matter.

Datuk Chander has taken great pains to prove why the 20-year population projections of the Indians which were prepared in 1974 under his supervision by the DOS are wrong. He however makes no effort to claim credit and explain how he got the population projections of the Malays and Chinese correct.

He goes on to add that I have erred by not indicating that the parameters used did not factor in any assumptions about the level of net external migration. I reproduce the opening sentences of his supervised 1974 report under chapter V: ‘Some implications of projected future population of Peninsular Malaysia’:-

“The future population of Peninsular Malaysia will be determined primarily by trends in natural increase, for it seems that external migration will NO LONGER be a significant factor in population change. Trends in mortality and fertility are much more conjectural”.

In the book ‘The Population of Peninsular Malaysia’ by Professor Saw Swee Hock, details of another ‘projected population by race 1980-2020’ are available. I reproduce the assumptions made by Professor Saw on this study:-

“The results of any population projection depend primarily on the assumptions adopted in regard to migration, mortality and fertility. It may be recalled that immigration from overseas countries is now under very rigid control, while emigration to these countries will continue to be NEGLIGIBLE in the future. It was therefore decided to assume that migration WILL NOT exact a significant influence on future population trends.”

As this was printed several years after Datuk Chander’s report, the past was indeed a good predictor of the future. However it is unfair of me to expect Datuk Chander to recollect in full an official paper that was submitted to CICRED, United Nations under his supervision almost four decades ago.

Therefore based on both Datuk Chander as well as Professor Saw’s recommended assumptions itself, I did not factor in any assumptions about the level of net external migration. Nevertheless I did make a remark which Datuk Chander may have overlooked.

“Despite the external migration of the Chinese community which was far greater compared with the Indian community, Chander 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.”

Hence the issue regarding not taking into account the level of net external migration is buried.

However in the interests of a healthy debate, I shall entertain Datuk Chander’s points regarding crude birth rates, net migration and natural rates of growth. As he had brought some issues in comparison with the Chinese community, permit me to do the same.

Datuk Chander stated Professor Saw has reported that between 1970 and 1984, the crude birth rate for Indians declined from 33.2 to 29.8; the crude death rate declined from 6.9 to 5.3. This is incorrect. Those figures that were given in Professor Saw’s book stands for the Malaysian population in general and not specifically for the Indians.

Gross Reproduction Rates for the Chinese and Indians 1969-1983

Year Chinese Indians
2.270 2.616
2.248 2.415
2.263 2.284
2.123 2.203
1.983 2.040
1.897 2.032
1.754 1.919
1.654 1.767
1.635 1.704
1.582 1.687
1.512 1.648
1.471 1.621
1.419 1.534
1.313 1.464

This table shows that with exception to only one year (1976), in all the remaining years between 1969 and 1983, the Indian Gross Reproduction Rate was consistently higher than the Chinese. In fact it has been higher than the Chinese since 1957. The Indian Gross Reproduction Rate was even higher than the Malays from the years 1957 to 1968!

General Fertility Trends:

Chinese Indians
-23.0 -22.7
-19.7 -14.3

This shows that the general fertility trends of the Indians were higher than the Chinese.

Between the years 1970 and 1980, the net migration of the Chinese was -255,200 as versus -76,000 for the Indians. The percentage net migration of both these ethnic groups also was almost similar, 49.1% for the Chinese and 48.5% for the Indians.

Annual Growth Rate % (Population):

Chinese Indians
1970 2.3 2.3
1980 2.1 2.3
2.0 2.2

The annual population growth rate between the Chinese and the Indians showed that the Indians were parallel with the Chinese in the year 1970 but subsequently in the years 1980 and 1984 the Indians’ were higher.

Standardised Death Rates:

5.83 8.54
5.06 7.25

Admittedly the Indian death rates were higher than the Chinese but it was improving with time. Within this 10-year period the standardised death rates of the Chinese were reduced by 13.2% as compared to the standardised death rates of Indians reduced by 15.1%.

Percentage Distribution of Population by Race:

Malays Chinese Indians Others Total
53.1 35.5 10.6 0.8 100
56.0 33.4
10.0 0.6 100
56.2 33.0 10.1 0.7

Between the years 1970 and 1984, the percentage distribution of Chinese population dropped 2.5% as compared to the Indians that had dropped only 0.5%.

All these factors clearly indicate Datuk Chander’s points raised that the Indian population in Malaysia was affected more negatively as compared to the Chinese population is flawed.

His explanation that his 1974 report of the projected Indian population had exceeded the correct target cannot be substantiated as the percentage distribution of the Chinese population had a bigger percentage drop as compared to the Indians. If his projection for the Indians population (1990) was in excess by between 175,863 and 344,489 as was noted in the 1991 census, so should the Chinese population have been. In reality his projected Chinese population (1990) was at the very minimum 111,683 below of the actual 1991 census.

And as such the anomaly still persists.

The table Datuk Chander had displayed showing the foreign-born population with migration from China and India has minimal relevance to this debate. The foreign- born Indians that numbered 245,000 in 1957 had dropped to 110,000 in 1980, and as was stated, this drop in numbers did also include some of the thousands of older persons who had passed away, highlighting a crucial point that they unjustly died being stateless! Surely this cannot be trumped as an indicator of improvement.

Furthermore the numerous children that were born from parents who were foreign- born and entitled for citizenship but yet denied, also inherited this problem. One just needs to read the newspapers to know the extent of this stateless problem among schoolgoing children who have been denied access to education. Since September 2009, Mr P. Uthayakumar of Hindraf, a leading activist of the stateless Indians problem in Malaysia, has been collecting newspaper cuttings and uploading it on this website:

Citizenship status in percentage:

1970 1980
91.3 98.1
68.2 95.7

These figures unfortunately only takes into account all persons aged 12 and above. It does not show the citizenship status of those aged below 12 who had been denied birth certificates. As such about 30% of the Indian population was not even taken into account.

Percentage Distribution by Broad Age Group for Indians 1970 and 1980:

Age Group 1970 1980
14.8 12.7
30.2 24.7
60 and over                                        
4.2 5.2

Even then, if in 1980 the stateless amounted to 4.3% of the 70% Indian population, this figure would at the very bottom margin account for 33,000 stateless Indians. It should be reminded that this is only taking into account 70% of the Indian population and that too, 32 years ago.

There is a possibility that the above table may not show the true picture as there is widespread suspicion (as highlighted recently by N. Surendran (left), vice president of PKR) that the government is deliberately denying citizenship to Indians who are born in this country and who are automatically entitled to citizenship according to the federal constitution.

As one example, Periakkah a/p Nagan born in Malaysia but stateless, was made to apply on Feb 24, 2011 to JPN for citizenship (application no.16011018-20091026-132449-42). By right Periakkah is entitled to citizenship by operation of law (Part 1, Article 14 of the Federal Constitution), but Periakkah was channelled to make an application as under Article 16 of the Federal Constitution. This instantly renders Periakkah’s application and status as a foreigner, and considering that she has no other citizenship, she becomes stateless.

This may give a clue of the dark undercurrent that is taking place in Malaysia, where Surendran states that there is systematic deprivation of citizenship affecting large areas of the Indian community in clear breach of the federal constitution. He also states that you can encounter stateless Indian residents in every corner of the peninsula.

A simple illustration of what could be the scenario in Malaysia will give you a clearer picture. Imagine there are 100 Indians in a hall (Malaysia). If every year one Indian in that hall is deprived of proper citizenship documents like birth certificate or MyKad, then that Indian will be removed from the hall, rendering him stateless. This will leave 99 Indians remaining in the hall.

All data/censuses are perhaps only taking into account the Indians within the hall and not those removed from the hall. This suspicion that some may allege to be a conspiracy theory appears to be justified by the increasing number of casesakin to Periakkah’s being revealed. Over time the number of non Malaysian citizens is also ballooning.

Even the opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had recently acknowledged to a large crowd in Bukit Beruntung on May 12, 2012 that there are at least 300,000 stateless Indians in Malaysia and that they are by right Malaysian citizens and not foreign workers.

Senator Dr S. Ramakrishnan proclaimed that Malaysia had betrayed its own Indian citizens. He revealed that there were 55,758 Malaysian-born, red card identity holders and he suspects that a high percentage of these must be Indians. There are a further 21,456 persons from India who also hold red ICs. He highlighted that the National Registration Department (NRD) recently disclosed that there are 43,000 Indians, born in Malaysia, who have not applied for their MyKad.

This figure does not specify if these numbers also represent Malaysian Indians who attempted to apply for Mykad but for some reason or another was turned away by the NRD.

Currently there are a further 17,000 Malaysian Indians still waiting for their MyKad applications to be approved. He adds that MyKads and blue identity cards have been denied to Malaysian Indians for small and trivial anomalies. They were made to travel back and forth from state registration department to the Putrajaya office. Indians who are poor can’t afford these wasted trips.

Even the former Selangor Chief Minister Dr Mohd Khir Toyo had on Jan 21, 2008 advised the Home Ministry to set up a body to look into the plight of 40,000 Indian children in the state of Selangor alone who did not have birth certificates.

In the medical field, the gestation age of an unborn child in mother’s womb is more accurately estimated using an ultrasound at the earlier part of the pregnancy as compared to one done in the later part of the pregnancy.

In Professor Saw’s book ‘The Population of Peninsular Malaysia’ reprint edition 2007, there is a table that denotes ‘Projected population by race 1980-2020’:

Projected 2010 13,797,455 6,245,361 2,006,613
Actual 2010 Census 14,191,720 6,392,636 1,907,827
+394,265 +147,275 -98,786

Once again the official 2010 Census has a deficit of almost 100,000 Indians as compared to the population projection of Prof. Saw’s book.

Res ipsa loquitur.

Putrajaya, we have a problem!

Both Datuk R. Chander’s projected population report in 1975 as well as Prof. Saw Swee Hock’s projected population done many years later show a consistently higher estimate of the Indian population as compared to the actual censuses whereas both men have been accurate or lower in their estimates of the Malays and Chinese populations in reference to actual censuses of the future.

Professor Saw Swee Hock stated in his book:

“In a country like Peninsular Malaysia where racial integration has hardly taken place at all, considerable significance is attached to the possible changes in the racial composition of the population. This is because such changes will certainly lead to shifts in the relative political strength among these races, which in turn will have serious ramifications in the field of social and economic developments of these communities.”

This could be the primary reason why the Umno-led Malaysian government is dragging its feet in not just delaying but also vehemently denying that there could be as many as 450,000 stateless Indians in Malaysia even though the ground reality proves very much otherwise.


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