Over 3,000 people of Indian descent in Malaysia are set to get the country’s citizenship after Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced the move this week. The scheme is applicable to Indian-origin persons aged over 60 years, who have already applied for the citizenship status.
The move is in accordance with the election manifesto of the political coalition Pakatan Harapan, which had pledged to extend citizenship status to the 3,407 Indians, who are over the age limit of 60 years and possess red MyKads, Mohamad told the media at the Parliament in Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 14, Malaymail reported.
Red Mykad is a Malaysian identity card given to permanent residents in the country. Citizens of Malaysia, on the other hand, carry Blue Mykad.
The move will not be implemented immediately, since it requires each person to meet several official conditions, such as getting oneself registered at the National Registration Department (NRD).
“If he is a red card holder, 60-years-old and above, he will be given a blue card (MyKad). He has to fill a form at the NRD,” Mohamad said, the New Straits Times reported.
People who are under 60 years old will be considered for citizenship only if one parent of the applicant is a Malaysian. The government may also look into cases where the marriage of the parents of the applicant was not registered, he added.
It is mandatory for the applicant to be Malaysia-born and clear a simple Bahasa Malaysia competency test.
“The Bahasa Malaysia competency test will only touch on simple use of the language. If they pass, then we will accept them (as citizen). There will also be a requirement for them to be based in Malaysia for at least 12 years, in which they have actually resided in the country for 10 years, according to the Federal Constitution,” Mohamad was quoted as saying by the media.
He added that his 100-day-old pledge was currently restricted to the Indian community, but in future, it will be extended to cover other communities as well.
The Indian community in Malaysia includes Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims, according to a survey conducted in 2017 by the NGO MyDaftar. People of Indian origin in the country are mainly Tamil-speaking while a significant number speak Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi and Punjabi, it added.
Indian identity issues were in the spotlight in Malaysian general election in 2018, when Mohamad himself was targeted for his Indian roots.
The 93-year-old politician, who happens to be the world’s oldest serving prime minister, was born in Malaysia but shares his roots with India, which was an issue used by his opponents to target him during the election campaign earlier this year.