AUGUST 7 — From the constitutional and legal perspective, the answer is obvious and simple. A Malaysian is one who is registered as a citizen of Malaysia by virtue of the laws of Malaysia.
You could be born in Malaysia but if you are not registered as a citizen of Malaysia, then legally, you are not a Malaysian. On the contrary, you could be born in Kuwait, or India or China or Indonesia or anywhere else, but if you are registered as a citizen of Malaysia, then you are a Malaysian under the law.
We must wake up to the fact that Malaysia is a sovereign nation. We cannot still be living in the past, colonial or otherwise. If we keep doing that then we will be creating illusionary problems that will waste our time and cause us real problems. This is like creating problems for ourselves from thin air and being distracted from the task of nation-building.
The nation state called Malaysia was non-existent before 1963. The Federation of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak was created and this Federation called Malaysia was declared on Sept 16, 1963, subject to the Federal Constitution. Hence, by logic, there were no Malaysian citizens before that. Citizens of Malaysia only existed after Malaysia was born with guaranteed rights and privileges under the Federal Constitution.
There are several ways by which one qualifies to be a citizen of Malaysia. Part II of the Federal Constitution provides the legal mechanisms through which a person becomes a citizen of Malaysia — by operation of law, by registration or by naturalisation. Once you are a citizen, you are subjected to and have the protection of the laws of Malaysia. Once you are a Malaysian citizen, you are deemed to be loyal to the country unless you exhibit behaviour to the contrary and is found guilty of “disloyal” behaviour.
The place of birth of the person is irrelevant once he has become a citizen. Hence, I find it distasteful and even defamatory for anyone to suggest that simply because someone is born outside Malaysia or his parents were, it suggests that his loyalty to the country is suspect or that he is less of a Malaysian. This is as if every citizen born in Malaysia is necessarily an exemplary citizen. Surely this is not so as our prisons will testify.
There are many Malaysian citizens who have in return become corrupt and engage in criminal activities that cause misery to the majority of the other Malaysians. So, it is best that we stay focus and judge a citizen for his contributions to the country instead of casting baseless aspersions on the person.
Every Malaysian citizen enjoys the rights and privileges accorded under the laws of Malaysia and he is equally subjected to these laws. He has the same responsibility and duties as any other citizen of Malaysia. This is an important fact for Malaysians to understand so that no one’s loyalty to the country is questioned unless there is evidence of treason or some criminal act that shows that the person has “sold out” the country.
We should be united under the Federal Constitution and the values that it embodies. If we understand the Constitution, we will see that it is some sort of an agreement between us as to how we live in our country and treat each other. It provides for the establishment and the status of key institutions that are critical for a progressive and successful nation.
These are the things the people and leaders should be developing and give meaning to. We have to move away from the bigoted, dogmatic and sometimes romantic notions created by some irresponsible politicians that only divide and break the foundation of our blessed nation.
We should be wise to be able to differentiate the pure politicians from the statesmen who are in politics. This is important so that we do not give credence to destructive speeches or statements from irresponsible politicians whose only interest is self-serving power.
It is the duty of responsible citizens to realign to a Malaysian mindset whenever such irresponsible politicians challenge it.
The sooner we get along as Malaysians, the sooner we can all truly unite and progress towards making this nation a great nation in all its aspects.
There are many challenges that we constantly face such as the quality of education, creating employment opportunities, improvements in general welfare, socio-economic challenges, the national culture (attitudes and values) and so on.
These matters should demand our focus and collective energy.
* Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos is a senior lawyer and founder of Rapera, a movement which encourages thinking and compassionate citizens. He can be reached at email@example.com
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.