Home minister under fire over ‘Malaysians must know BM’ statement

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Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today slammed Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail for defending an immigration officer, who scolded a woman and her daughter in Johor for not being able to speak Bahasa Malaysia.

In a statement, its director, Zaid Malek, said there is no requirement for a Malaysian citizen routinely applying for a passport to show proficiency in Bahasa Malaysia.

“To impose such a condition is unlawful, high-handed and will create alarm among the public,” he said.

Zaid also accused the minister of confusing the requirement for citizenship by naturalisation or registration with the requirement for citizenship as a matter of law.

The mother and daughter in the recent incident in Johor, he said, are Malaysians by virtue of operation of law and should not have been subjected to the harassment and ridicule they encountered from the officer.

“Neither the home minister nor any of the enforcement authorities under its purview can simply add stipulations beyond what is required under the law.

“It is imperative that the Home Ministry as an executive body ensure that the law and the Federal Constitution are complied with.

“To that end, there must be an investigation and appropriate action taken against the immigration officer for this unlawful and outrageous conduct; the government must also make sure that all protocols in force in the Immigration Department comply with the law,” said Zaid.

Recently, a woman posted on social media alleging that an immigration officer in Johor had scolded her and her daughter for not being able to speak Bahasa Malaysia and responding to his questions in English instead.

She had highlighted the matter on social media. Although the posting is no longer available, it was reported that the woman had explained that their poor command of Bahasa Malaysia was due to them residing in Singapore for a long time.

When Saifuddin was asked to comment on the incident two days ago, he told reporters that all Malaysians must know Bahasa Malaysia and that the authorities have a reason to be suspicious when a Malaysian is unable to converse in the national language. – Malaysiakini