Minister Defends UTC Officer After Woman Claims She Was Insulted For Not Speaking BM

"If you cannot understand the local language, you are not eligible (for citizenship)," said Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.

Cover image via Hazreen Mohamad/Berita Harian & Facebook

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Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail has defended an Immigration Department staff for questioning a woman's Bahasa Melayu proficiency while renewing a passport at UTC Johor

According to Berita Harian, Saifuddin said the officer was likely suspicious of the individual's citizenship status.

"It may have happened because it raised suspicion," he said.

"Previously, when the Ministry of Home Affairs conducted studies on citizenship, we found that the requirement to master the language is also a condition in several of the world's most advanced countries, such as Singapore and the UK.

"If you cannot understand the local language, you are not eligible (for citizenship)," he added.

Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.

Image via Hazreen Mohamad/Berita Harian

Saifuddin emphasised that the department was not complicating the situation, as it is a Malaysian's obligation to master Bahasa Melayu

"For us, it is enshrined in our constitution that Bahasa Melayu is the official language, while other languages can be learned and used freely. That is the foundation," he said during a press conference at the Ministry of Home Affairs' first anniversary celebration.

"It is essential to understand the language to avoid raising suspicions," he added.

Last week, an incident went viral on social media, in which a Malaysian claimed she was mistreated by an immigration officer due to her lack of proficiency in Bahasa Melayu while renewing her daughter's passport

According to Sin Chew Daily, in a now-deleted Facebook post, the woman said she and her 14-year-old daughter visited the immigration office in UTC Johor, where they claimed they were "insulted" over their language skills.

The woman claimed the situation unfolded when the male staff member, who was distributing queue tickets, inquired about her daughter's age, to which she answered in English.

According to her, the officer responded, "What is 'fourteen' in Malay? This is Malaysia, are you Malaysian? If yes, you need to speak Malay."

A photo uploaded by the woman showing the immigration officer in question.

Image via Facebook

The woman explained that both she and her daughter had been studying in Singapore since a young age, resulting in their limited fluency in Bahasa Melayu

However, the woman claimed that the officer persisted with remarks such as, "Do you know that you are in Malaysia? And you can't even speak Malay?" and "Even when going abroad, like to Taiwan, knowing Malay is important."

According to her, the officer also suggested that they change nationalities, stating, "Are you permanent residents? Whether you are a permanent resident or a citizen, if you have a Malaysian IC but don't know how to speak Malay, it's better you consider becoming Singaporean citizens. Don't stay in Malaysia. Here, we don't speak English."

The woman said that she was close to tears but chose not to respond and silently took a number to wait in line.

However, she questioned whether being proficient in Bahasa Melayu was a reason for her and her daughter to be discriminated against and berated in public.

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