ANP pushes penal­ties in cit­i­zen­ship scru­tiny process

The Myanmar Times - - News - NYAN LYNN AUNG nyan­lin­aung@mm­

A NA­TION­AL­IST po­lit­i­cal party yes­ter­day raised ob­jec­tions over how the new gov­ern­ment has been ad­dress­ing cit­i­zen­ship is­sues in Rakhine State, cit­ing a lack of pun­ish­ments en­forced against fraud­u­lent ap­pli­cants.

The Arakan Na­tional Party said the cur­rent cit­i­zen­ship ver­i­fi­ca­tion scheme has largely con­tin­ued on the work of the pre­vi­ous Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party’s agenda, but both gov­ern­ments have failed to en­act penalty mea­sures for those who falsely rep­re­sent their bid for cit­i­zen­ship.

“The cur­rent im­ple­men­ta­tion of the NVC process should be re-an­a­lysed be­cause the process is miss­ing some reg­u­la­tions in ac­cor­dance with the 1982 Cit­i­zen­ship Law, es­pe­cially the penal­ties sec­tion. The gov­ern­ment has never talked about this sec­tion, and has not even re­vealed it to the pub­lic so far,” said U Aye Maung, chair of the ANP.

Ac­cord­ing to the con­tro­ver­sial 1982 Cit­i­zen­ship Law, en­acted by Gen­eral Ne Win’s regime, un­der sec­tion 18, any­one who has ac­quired cit­i­zen­ship by mak­ing a false rep­re­sen­ta­tion or by con­ceal­ment shall have his cit­i­zen­ship re­voked, and shall also be li­able to im­pris­on­ment for a term of 10 years and to a fine of K50,000.

The Rakhine State gov­ern­ment has been con­duct­ing an on­go­ing cit­i­zen­ship ver­i­fi­ca­tion pi­lot project in three Mus­lim ma­jor­ity town­ships. State chief min­is­ter U Nyi Pu said last week that at least 1919 cards have so far been given to Mus­lim res­i­dents of Mye­bon and Kyauk­phyu town­ships.

The pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment re­voked all tem­po­rary iden­tity cards – known as “white cards” – held by state­less Mus­lims and other eth­nic groups in 2015. Ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment fig­ures, there were nearly 800,000 white­card hold­ers in Myan­mar, with over 660,000 in Rakhine State.

White cards were first is­sued in the early 1990s as a re­sult of the 1982 Cit­i­zen­ship Law. The leg­is­la­tion es­tab­lished three cat­e­gories of cit­i­zen­ship that ex­cluded most self-iden­ti­fy­ing Ro­hingya and barred them from ob­tain­ing na­tional reg­is­tra­tion cards, while also stip­u­lat­ing oner­ous bur­dens of proof.

On July 15, U Nyi Pu told staterun me­dia that the gov­ern­ment would con­tinue im­ple­ment­ing the cit­i­zen­ship ver­i­fi­ca­tion scheme and would grant cit­i­zen­ship to el­i­gi­ble “cer­tifi­cate” hold­ers who do not yet hold proper cit­i­zen­ship cards – in­clud­ing “as­so­ci­ate” and “nat­u­ralised” cit­i­zens.

But some ANP mem­bers dis­puted how those cer­tifi­cates were doled out, al­leg­ing that un­der pre­vi­ous regimes, the cer­tifi­cates could be pur­chased from cor­rupt of­fi­cials. The party called on the gov­ern­ment to care­fully scru­ti­nise such “cer­tifi­cate” hold­ers, and to pun­ish any un­sub­stan­ti­ated claims.

“We can­not just say peo­ple hold­ing cer­tifi­cates are cit­i­zens al­ready un­der the three-tiered cod­i­fi­ca­tion of cit­i­zen­ship be­cause they may have be­come cit­i­zens through false rep­re­sen­ta­tion or by cor­rup­tion. There­fore, we are com­plain­ing to the gov­ern­ment and ap­peal­ing that the [1982] law be im­ple­mented ex­actly,” said Daw Aye Nu Sein, a high-court lawyer and the vice chair of the ANP.

Ko Kyaw Zaw Oo, an ANP MP in the Rakhine State Hlut­taw, said the gov­ern­ment must un­der­stand that cit­i­zen­ship scru­tiny in Rakhine State has reper­cus­sions for the whole coun­try.

“This is a re­ally im­por­tant mat­ter not only for us but also for the coun­try be­cause a small hole may sink the ship,” he said. “If the gov­ern­ment approves cit­i­zens who are not real cit­i­zens, the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion might change.”

Na­tion­al­ists have long fo­mented fears that an il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion in­flux could destab­lise the coun­try’s demographics and marginalise the Bud­dhist ma­jor­ity. Last week, the re­lease of long-with­held re­li­gious data from the 2014 cen­sus un­der­cut such claims and re­vealed the coun­try’s re­li­gious makeup has barely shifted in the three decades since the pre­vi­ous cen­sus.

Photo: Thir­ilu

The Arakan Na­tional Party held a press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to more care­fully scru­ti­nise cit­i­zen­ship ap­pli­ca­tions.

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