Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Amending the Citizenship Laws

In a discussion between the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Hamid Awaluddin, and the Indonesian community in New Delhi on 4 April 2006 evening, the Minister has reiterated once again the claim of ‘revolutionary’ decision by the government to re-draft and replace the old citizenship laws for the benefits of the Indonesian people in general and the Indonesian economy in particular.

The government wants to introduce a limited dual citizenship to Indonesian children born out of an international marriage and the possibility of granting permanent resident status to foreign investors in Indonesia. This permanent resident status offer is meant to boost the flow of FDI and help in improving the Indonesian economy.

In my opinion, a permanent resident status to be offered to those foreign investors in Indonesia is a good step towards building up a better future for Indonesian economy. The status will exempt the holders of the long and complicated process of immigration formalities. A permanent resident status offer to foreign investor is certainly a revolutionary step toward integrating Indonesia into the new international landscape.

However, the idea of a limited dual citizenship to be offered to Indonesian children born out of an international marriage is far from beneficial in easing out their citizenship problems. Because by limiting their chance to choose between being an Indonesian and a non-Indonesian after the age of 18 is discouraging. Protecting the citizenship right of Indonesian women from being forced to relinquish their citizenship in such an international marriage is one important thing but limiting the right of these ‘Indonesians’ to have an Indonesian nationality in future is something different.

Security reason cited as the basis of this idea of limited dual nationality is understandable but not giving a chance to these children to choose what they want to do in future is like denying their basic rights. In this case, the citizenship policy adopted by the Indian government might worth to consider. This citizenship policy has provided a lot of benefits to the development of India as a whole and Indian economy in particular.

Non Resident Indian (NRI), Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI)

These terms are very familiar in the Indian language vocabulary and economy. While the first one refers to those Indian citizens who stay abroad for employment/carrying on business or vocation outside India or stays abroad under circumstances indicating an intention for an uncertain duration of stay abroad, a PIO and an OCI are similar yet different. Both are those persons of Indian origin, up to the fourth generation, living abroad and having foreign passports except those of Pakistan and Bangladesh but the rights and benefits of these cardholders are slightly different. While the right of a PIO cardholder is limited, an OCI cardholder enjoys more benefits.

The benefits of an OCI cardholder are:

1) Multiple entry, multi-purpose life long visa to visit India;
2) Exemption from reporting to Police authorities for ay length of stay in India; and
3) Parity with NRIs in financial, economic and educational fields except in the
acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.

The Overseas Citizens, however, will not enjoy the following Rights:

1) Right to Vote;
2) Right to hold Constitutional Offices (Member of Lok Sabha (DPR), Rajya Sabha (MPR), Legislative Assembly or Council (DPRD), offices of President, Vice-President, Judge of Supreme Court & High Court, etc.);
3) Appointment to Public Services (Govt. Services)

Compared to PIO card, OCI offers following benefits:

1) OCI is entitled to life long visa, free travel to India whereas for PIO cardholder, it is just for 15 years.
2) PIO cardholder is required to register with local police authority for stay exceeding 180 days in India on any single visit whereas OCI is exemption from reporting to Police for any length of stay in India.

In short, these policies have given a lot of choices to persons of Indian origin to choose. At the same time, the policies gave immense opportunities for India to boost the flow of India’s FDI. In fact, the 7 to 8 % of economic growth enjoys by India for the past few years can in part be attributed to the success of this policy.

If the current Indonesian government is really willing to ‘revolutionize’ the citizenship laws, the Indian experience is worth to consider. While not altering its policy on dual citizenship, India has opened up opportunities for persons of Indian origin belonging to developed countries and willing to invest in India to choose the status of being a PIO or an OCI cardholder.

Thus, instead of adopting a limited dual citizenship, Indonesia can adopt the NRI, PIO or OCI policies adopted by India. In future, there would be a Non Resident Indonesian (NRI), People of Indonesian Origin (PIO) or, for that matter, Overseas Citizen of Indonesia (OCI).

In the end, I believe that this kind of policy will become a breakthrough policy that would certainly offer an answer to the citizenship problem. At the same time, it would attract Indonesians living abroad to return and invest in Indonesia without any difficulties and thus help the development of all sectors in Indonesian.

1 comment:

kunderemp said...

wow.. cool. I've just known there as such thing as PIO and OCI system.

I know about limiting citizens (the children can choose when they reach 18 years old) because I found many Indonesia n family in Australia but their children are Australian citizen and they may choose which citizenship they prefer when they reach 18.