LOSING her birth certificate when she was a child was more than just a stroke of bad luck for Ng Kooi Lan as she only has a red identity card until today.
This document only carries the permanent residence status even though she was born in Batu Gajah and has been staying there all her life.
The second youngest of six children in her family, the 69-year-old said she was the only one who lost her birth certificate while the rest of her siblings went on to getting their blue MyKad after turning 12.
“My mum was the one who kept our documents. But we moved from house to house when I was young.
“I think my birth certificate must have been misplaced when we had to pack our things and move out of our rented house into another one,” she said at a recent press conference by Perak Gerakan at the Sam Wong Kong temple in Batu Gajah.
Ng, who is unmarried, said there were no official records pertaining to her birth as well because her mother delivered her at home.
“Some of my siblings were born at home as well but their birth certificates did not go missing,” she said.
Ng added that she had tried to apply for citizenship twice but her applications were unsuccessful.
“I did not receive any response from the authorities. I really don’t know what else I can do,” she said.
Among some of the inconveniences of being a red IC holder, Ng said, is she was not eligible for the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) scheme or welfare aid.
“I have to stay in my nephew’s house because I can’t own property.
“I cannot vote and I have to pay a higher fee at government hospitals compared to Malaysian citizens,” she lamented.
Facing the same predicament as Ng, hawker Tan Ah Ha, also 69, was on the verge of giving up hope after four unsuccessful attempts at applying for citizenship.
“I tried applying in 1974, 1983, 1989 and 1993. I received no news from the government in the end.
“I’m feeling very sad and frustrated about this, I don’t know what else to do,” he said.
Also born in Batu Gajah, Tan, the eldest of eight children in his family, said he had no idea how his birth certificate went missing because his mother kept the important documents when he was young.
“As I grew older, I realised I was on the losing end when I saw how the rest of my siblings could enjoy the benefits that came with a Malaysian citizenship and I could not,” he said.
Luckily for Tan, he married a local girl. Since his wife was a MyKad holder, his daughter and son, now aged 36 and 34, were Malaysian citizens.
“We can own property as long as it is under my wife’s name,” he said.
Having worked as a hawker for over 40 years, Tan said one of the major complications faced by a red IC holder was the trouble he had to go through when travelling out of the country.
“In 2011, my daughter’s wedding was held in South Korea and I had to pay double the fee for a regular five-year passport compared to my wife.
“And also, for countries Malaysians can travel to without a visa, I have to apply for a tourist visa.
“It is troublesome because I need to spend money putting up in Kuala Lumpur just to get my travel documents done,” he said.
Tan related that it has been his dream to visit one of his brothers who is currently living in Taiwan.
“I can only see him once every five years because that is how infrequent he gets to travel back to Malaysia and visit me,” he said.
Perak Gerakan chairman Soo Kay Ping said Ng and Tan were among 148 stateless people seeking citizenship in Perak.
“It’s a sad situation, seeing how this group of people were born in Malaysia and have lived here all their lives, and yet they are still treated as foreigners,” he said.
Soo urged the Government to consider relaxing their policies to end statelessness when it came to such straightforward cases such as Ng and Tan’s.
“I understand that there are certain fixed criteria when it comes to obtaining citizenship successfully, such as being able to converse fluently in Malay and they must have some knowledge of Malaysian history.
“But the Government must understand that there are certain segments of society who were not well-educated back in the old days because of financial constraints,” he said.
Without going through proper channels, Soo said, the chances of them obtaining citizenship is very slim.
“Those who are trying to apply for citizenship may visit Wisma Gerakan Perak, so we can guide them through the process,” he said.
Wisma Gerakan Perak is located at 80C, Tingkat 4, Persiaran Greenhill in Ipoh.
For details, call 05-241 1743 or 05-241 9788.