KUCHING: The parents of four-year-old Elven Lai can sigh with relief now that he is a Malaysian citizen.
Elven was deemed stateless because he was born before his Sarawakian father and Indonesian mother registered their marriage.
“We applied for his citizenship last year after we got our marriage certificate.
“I feel very happy and relieved that the application was successful. Now I do not have to worry about his schooling or his future,” his father Lai Chin Fong said.
Elven was one of nine recipients who received their approval letters from the Home Ministry under Article 15A of the Federal Constitution at Wisma Wanita here.
Article 15A covers citizenship registration for individuals below 21 years under special circumstances.
The letters were presented by state Welfare, Community Well-being, Women, Childhood and Family Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah.
Ling Ching Kiew was also glad that her adopted children Kueh Xin Ying, 18, and Kueh Jun Jie, 13, received their citizenship.
She said they did not have personal documents because their biological parents could not be traced.
“We have applied over the years for citizenship under Article 15A and finally it was approved,” she said.
Meanwhile, Fatimah called on parents to follow the proper procedures when registering their children’s births or adopting a child to avoid the issue of statelessness.
She said one reason adopted children were deemed stateless was because their birth certificates were not properly registered.
“In some cases the state National Registration Department found that the adoptive parents were wrongly registered as the biological parents.
“If the biological parents cannot be traced, the child will be issued a birth certificate with the citizenship status yet to be determined.
“In such cases, the adoptive parents should go through the proper procedures to adopt the child and then apply for citizenship under Article 15A of the Federal Constitution,” she said.
Fatimah said children could also be deemed stateless if they were born to a foreign mother before their parents’ marriage was registered or if their parents remained unmarried.
“The child’s citizenship will follow that of the mother’s in these cases,” she said.
She said the state-level special committee on citizenship status would continue to facilitate citizenship applications from Sarawak to the Home Ministry.
Fatimah said 127 out of 723 applications had been approved by the ministry since the committee was set up in 2016.
“We would like to see a decrease in the number of applications.
“We encourage everyone to follow the proper procedures in registering births and adoption so that the issue of stateless children will no longer arise,” she added.