Writer: Kuroshini A/P Sathurugnan Saravanan
Editor: David Ling Chun Sing
Panelist of the forum with the audience
Source: “End Statelessness: Who Are Malaysia’s Invisible People?” forum
SENTUL, 18 Nov - Malaysia United Democratic Alliance (MUDA) urges the public to open their eyes to Malaysia's invisible people that is known as statelessness through a free forum “End Statelessness: Who Are Malaysia’s Invisible People?” at Overtime Cafe to raise awareness of this ongoing issue.
This forum in collaboration with Overtime Cafe received more than the expected number of audience. A 10% discount on any food or beverages at the cafe was given to the customers who attended the forum as an effort to encourage the public. However, audiences from different backgrounds and age groups have made the forum a success.
Statelessness is not a foreign issue to Malaysia as many born and raised Malaysian citizens are struggling to acquire citizenship. However, it is not often talked about which results in many not understanding the basic term of statelessness and that includes the parliament members themselves too. Lack of knowledge to differentiate between statelessness, refugees and immigrants hinders the public from understanding the seriousness of statelessness.
Deputy President of MUDA Puteri Wangsa, YB Amira Aisya said, ‘When people don’t understand about this stateless issue, there is a lot of stigma on stateless children and it is very difficult for these children to get their citizenship.’
Therefore, MUDA Segambut takes the initiative to organize this forum to raise awareness and invite professionals like Malini Ramalo from Development of Human Resources for Rural Areas (DHRRA), YB Amira Aisya from MUDA Puteri Wangsa, Haijan Omar, a criminal lawyer and an affected victim, Melissa Quek Ai-Ying to share knowledge and experience in handling issues revolving around statelessness to the public.
She adds,‘Public awareness is extremely important for two reasons, one, when the public is aware about the stigma around stateless children, it opens more opportunities for them.
Two in terms of law, politics is all about supply and demand,if there is a lot of demand on the ground demanding the politicians to take this issue more seriously, politicians cannot stay silent, close their eyes and pretend nothing is happening.’
Deputy Chairperson MUDA Wilayah, Farah Syahidah said that, ‘Not many people know about this issue because it is actually a tiny issue but it affects Malaysia on a large scale.
‘Although as a public, we can’t contribute greatly to this issue, we can still be aware of it as we speak with others to spread awareness of the ongoing issue.
‘Now that we have social media, it is a good platform for people to discuss and talk about this issue where more people get to know about it.’
The huge crowd of audience attending the forum believes that their attendance would make a difference and continues to urge the public to open their eyes to the statelessness issue in Malaysia. This issue is often not talked about but affects a great number of Malaysians.
Sharifah Rashifa Aljunied, 23 ‘I am here today because I think it is important to have these forums going and preach to the crowd that is not aware about this topic.
‘When we are talking about this topic, we are preaching to a converted crowd, but I believe that we need to keep the conversation going and when you have a conversation with your friends about a certain topic, you are able to change the perception of someone as well.’
Ameer Fakhri, 26 said, ‘I have never experienced statelessness because I was born as Malaysian and have the privilege.
‘So, when I saw there was a forum about statelessness, it moved my heart to be present here today to learn about it.’
The forum serves as a platform for the public that has never heard about this issue before to learn about this ongoing issue. The target audience of this forum is not only those who are affected by statelessness but also to educate and urge the privileged Malaysians that have acquired citizenship to speak about this issue. The more people talk about this issue, the more pressured the government feels to do something about it.