I AM one of the stateless persons in Malaysia. However, I consider myself lucky compared to many other stateless people in this country.
I was born in Kota Kinabalu in 1999. My mother is Filipino. Unfortunately, my parents’ marriage was not registered and this cost me my citizenship. My brother and I found out we were stateless when he went to apply for a MyKad at the age of 12. We were told that we could still get Malaysian citizenship if we could prove that we are the sons of a Malaysian by doing a DNA paternity test. Unfortunately, our father passed away in 2000.
An officer at the National Registration Department then suggested that we apply under the 15A citizenship application (special circumstances), which takes at least two years to process.
Our first application was rejected because we did not produce an adoption certificate. We did the process of adoption with the help of the Beruas MP and then submitted our second application. This was also rejected with no reasons given.
We submitted our third application in 2016, desperately hoping that it would be successful as my brother was reaching the maximum age under the 15A application process. It’s been 10 years since we started our journey to become Malaysian citizens. God knows how many more years we have to wait.
I find it weird that although I am not Malaysian, I was given an identity card number in my red birth certificate.
Without proper documentation, I am unable to open a bank account and EPF account and get a driving licence. My brother could not get into public university even though he completed his STPM with above-average result. There is also confusion over university fees; if he is not a Malaysian, he cannot be charged Malaysian fees and he is also not a foreign student.
Getting jobs is a problem too if you are stateless. Freedom of movement is also restricted and we are unable to travel outside of Malaysia. We are also not eligible for government-subsidised health services.
Who will speak for the stateless people? If the Malaysian government is kind enough to give amnesty to illegal foreign workers, why can’t it also give amnesty to stateless people? Why are we bearing the consequences of the wrongdoings of our parents? Why should we bear the consequences of red tape (two years of processing time)?
I believe that every stateless person in Malaysia is willing and want to contribute to the country we love. In our hearts, we consider ourselves Malaysians even though the official documents do not say so. We have sung the Negaraku and recited the Rukunegara for years. Our Malaysian identity is planted deep inside us.
Proper solutions and policies should be drafted immediately to resolve the problem of stateless persons like my brother and me. One Johor MP has been highlighting this issue for a long time but she has been silent since she became a deputy minister.
Stateless people are like dormant lands waiting to be developed. If this problem is not solved soon, these stateless people will become a liability to the country. Please do not miss the chance to turn them into assets for our country.
I am grateful to those who are helping stateless people. They are, to mention a few, Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, Kasthuri Patto, lawyers from Lawyers for Liberty, activists from Development of Human Resources for Rural Areas (DHRRA) Malaysia, Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram and lawyers who are appearing for stateless children in the Federal Court, and many more kind-hearted people out there.
Dear lawmakers, please push the policy recommendation by DHRRA Malaysia which I find very inclusive. Please speak for the stateless people. There is a case hearing in the Federal Court this week which will affect many of the stateless people in Malaysia. I hope for the best for all of them.
“For too long, too many have wasted too much of their lives.”
WONG YEW LEE
Ayer Tawar, Perak
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