Stateless man from Sabah finally granted citizenship

KUALA LUMPUR: For the last 11 years, Wong Kueng Hui (pic), a stateless man, lived in fear of being arrested by the authorities, until the Kuala Lumpur High Court granted him a Malaysian citizenship yesterday.

Wong, 24, was born to a Sarawakian father and mother, believed to be an Indonesian, in Keningau Hospital in Sabah.

Both his parents died when he was a teenager and he was looked after by a close family friend in Sabah.

Yesterday, Justice Datuk Nordin Hassan granted him citizenship and ordered the National Registration Department (NRD) to issue an identity card.

His lawyer, Haijan Omar, said this is the first time the court has granted citizenship to a stateless person such as Wong.

“I’ve checked with the Malayan Law Journal and there were no other cases reported for adults under the same circumstances, ” he said.

“Other stateless children have different circumstances – they were adopted and their adoptive parents wanted them to get citizenship. But in Wong’s case, it’s different, he is an adult and has to fight on his own.”

In 2008, Wong applied for an identity card at the NRD in Kota Kinabalu. Instead, he was issued a new birth certificate that indicated he was a non-citizen.

Wong only has a copy of his father’s MyKad and without his parents’ marriage certificate, he was considered an illegitimate child under the Malaysian law. Under such circumstances, his citizenship would have to follow his mother’s nationality.

In December 2017, he applied for a one-month special permit from the Sabah Immigration Department to fly to Kuala Lumpur and is the only known stateless Sabahan to have successfully travelled to peninsular Malaysia to secure his citizenship.

Wong’s lawyer applied for his citizenship under Article 14 (1)(b) of the Federal Constitution, whereby every person born in Malaysia, but is not a citizen of any country, can apply as a citizen by operation of law.

“I didn’t expect the judge to rule in my favour. I have come here, thinking to myself, one day, I will walk out of this court as a Malaysian. I didn’t expect today to be the day, ” said a teary-eyed Wong.

“I’m happy to be a Malaysian but at the same time, I feel sad because the country still has no solution for stateless people, which has been a long-standing issue.

“I hope my victory will pave the way for others to pursue their case, ” he said.

Children’s organisation Yayasan Chow Kit (YCK), which works with stateless children, applauded the ruling.

“The news showed there is still hope for those who are 21 and above, ” said YCK founder Dr Hartini Zainuddin.

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