Yesterday, 92 ‘lucky’ people became Malaysian citizens, many of them after a wait of many years. Many of these are more Malaysians than some Malaysians, but because of red tapes and other undisclosed reasons, their applications were either put on hold, or rejected time and again.
I remember when I was studying in high school, one of my classmates was a stateless person despite being born in Malaysia before the Independence, simply because his father had died early and his mother did not apply for citizenship during the period preceding and immediately after Merdeka. When he was in his teens, it was too late already and both he and his mother were given only red ICs.
He was one of the very top students of our school, and was given an Asean Scholarship by the Singapore Government to study engineering in University of Singapore and later went overseas and obtained his PhD.
I still remember while all of us who went to Singapore had Malaysian Passports, he had only a Certificate of Identity to cross the immigration. But he was accepted in Singapore nonetheless, and became a Singaporean citizen upon his graduation as an engineer.
The last time I met him a decade ago, he was already a full professor in Singapore, and was well known in his field.
There are many such stories. These are many talents lost because of our bureaucracy. There are many spouses who are foreigners but married to Malaysians who studied overseas and came back to Malaysia to face a life long hassle of applying for Malaysian citizenship. Many had impeccable qualifications, but cannot get a job here because of their non Malaysian status.
Imagine their frustration of seeing millions of foreign workers coming into the country and easily getting work permits, and many Indonesian easily getting citizenship while they, with top qualifications which would be an asset to any country, lingering around our immigration department year in and year out to extend their stay.
I hope this process of approving citizenship for this group of more-Malaysian-than-Malaysian people would be continued in the next couple of months. But deep down in my heart, I can’t help but worry that this may be just a one off public relation excercise , which our government is so fond of and is so good at displaying. I will be glad to be proved wrong.
Imagine what these group could have contributed to our economy, our education system and our society? No, we rather allow people with poor education to get work permits and work at Wan-tan-Mee or fried-kway-teow stalls while their Malaysian hawker bosses are shaking legs at home and laughing to the banks.
There is a perception , which may or may not be true, that one of the hindrances of giving citizenship to these people is the number game with regards to racial composition of the country. But these people, although in the thousands, would hardly alter the race composition of the country, especially when demographic trend clearly shows that the major ethnic group is going to form a bigger and bigger proportion of the total population as time goes on.
Many of the Malaysians with foreign spouses who cannot get citizenship are so frustrated with the system that they chose to emigrate overseas. These are the cream of society and much sought after for their skills and abilities overseas. Their emigration is a loss to Malaysia and a gain to the country where they emigrate to.
Well, at least there is a good start now that 92 people were given citizenship. Although this is like a drop in the ocean, at least there is now hope that the government would ease its red tape and speed up the process of giving citizenship to this group of deserving Malaysians.
Otherwise, it would be a big farce that while we are ostensibly trying to attract foreign talents to our country, we are neglecting a ready group of equally talented would-be Malaysians who can contribute to the country at a fraction of the cost.
This post is alos published in Malaysianinsider .