Footballer’s citizenship a smack in the face of stateless children, says lawyer

6th February 2020 | PETALING JAYA: The naturalisation of Johor Darul Ta’zim midfielder Liridon Krasniqi has drawn the ire and criticism of two lawyers, who noted that people from other communities were still waiting to be granted citizenship.

The Kosovo-born player became a full-fledged citizen of Malaysia after receiving his MyKad at the National Registration Department (NRD) on Feb 3. He can now play for Malaysia, if Fifa approves.

Saying this was a “smack in the face” of the hundreds of stateless children in Malaysia, Simon Siah, from Lawyers Kamek for Change, asked if the footballer had gone through the proper process of being naturalised as a citizen.

He pointed out that many foreign spouses of Malaysians have been waiting for years to be granted Malaysian citizenship.

“Under Article 19 of the Constitution, the requirement is that Liridon has to reside in Malaysia for an aggregate of not less than 10 years in the 12 years immediately preceding the date of the application for the certificate.

“Not only that, he has to show that he has adequate knowledge of the Malay language which is to be assessed by the Language Board,” he told FMT.

Siah said some applicants have had to apply for citizenship on several occasions and were still awaiting approval to this day, adding that this had prevented younger applicants from furthering their studies.

He also said divorced foreign spouses could be sent back to their home countries despite having children considered to be Malaysian simply because they were not recognised as citizens and could not apply for spousal visas.

“Should we then also put conditions on the neutralisation of the citizenship of Liridon, that if he fails to perform for Harimau Malaya or that he has retired from Harimau Malaya or not selected, then his citizenship is to be revoked?” Siah asked.

Jeyaseelan Anthony said the move to make Liridon a citizen could be unconstitutional. He asked why the footballer was granted citizenship when hundreds of Malaysia-born Indians were still holding red identity cards.

He also echoed Siah in pointing out that there were foreign spouses, working as professionals, who have been unable to become Malaysian citizens despite staying in the country for a long time.

“The authorities cannot ignore their plight because these educated foreigners, some of whom are professionals, can make huge contributions to the country.

“It’s time the government looks into this seriously,” he told FMT.

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