Friday, October 22, 2021

‘Always afraid’: Stateless and without an IC in the big city

Thinesh lives in constant fear that she will be apprehended by the police and asked questions to which she has no answers.

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Twenty-year-old Thinesh spends her days working as a receptionist at the office of a non-profit organisation in Kelana Jaya, Selangor.

She smiles as she greets visitors at the front desk, answering phone calls and tending to those with questions.

In the office, she is confident and poised, sure of herself and of the work she does.

Outside the office, though, life is very different.

Although the confident veneer continues, Thinesh secretly dreads going about her daily activities as she lacks one very important item – an IC.

Thinesh was born and raised in Kedah but is considered stateless due to the simple fact that she knows nothing of her biological mother.

Without an IC, she lives in constant fear that she will be apprehended by the police and asked questions to which she has no answers.

Twenty-year-old Thinesh speaks in a recent interview with MalaysiaNow at her office in Kelana Jaya.

“When I was a child, there were a lot of things that I could not do,” she said in a recent interview with MalaysiaNow.

“I could not even participate in a camping activity held by my school because my parents were afraid that if I got caught by police officers, it would be complicated to explain.”

By parents, Thinesh means the couple that adopted her as a young child.

Thinesh lived with her biological father until she was eight years old. She never met her biological mother as the woman abandoned her as soon as she was born, disappearing without a trace.

One day, her father fell seriously ill. Realising that his time was short, he asked a trusted friend to adopt Thinesh, his only daughter. He passed away shortly after the adoption took place.

At the time, the focus was on ensuring that Thinesh would have a family. No one realised the gravity of her situation or the repercussions it would have on her life.

“I’m going to turn 21 next year not knowing if I can hold an IC or not. That is what scares me the most.”

When Thinesh turned 12, her adopted parents took her to get her first MyKad. But at the counter, they were told that she could not be given one as her birth certificate lacked information about her biological mother.

That was when Thinesh’s fears began.

She filed for citizenship in 2014, but her application is still being processed. She went to inquire about her application many times but each time, she was told the same thing: wait.

It has been nearly eight years now, and Thinesh is still waiting.

“They urged me to look for my biological mother, but how can I do that when I do not even know who she is? I’ve never even seen her face before.

“I’m going to turn 21 next year not knowing if I can hold an IC or not. That is what scares me the most,” she said.

Others her age can obtain a driving licence and further their studies but Thinesh cannot even buy a SIM card for a phone or open a bank account.

She desires with all her heart to live a normal life as a lawful citizen of the country where she was born and which she calls home. But more than that, she also wants to do something with her life that will allow her to contribute to her community.

Thinesh (right) answers the phone at her office in Kelana Jaya.

“I have a lot of dreams,” she told MalaysiaNow. “One of them is opening my own foundation for special children who need help.”

She would also like to further her studies in the field of psychology – but all she can do is to read about the subject and look things up on Google.

She has tried to apply for university but each time she is told that she does not qualify as a local student and would be charged higher tuition fees. Attempts to secure a scholarship have failed, and on her own she is unable to cover the cost of continuing her studies.

As a child at school, she was also bullied because she did not have a MyKad like all the rest of her peers. She always felt as though there was an invisible line between her and them, all because she lacked that one piece of ID.

“This is not my fault but I am the one who must struggle with it.”

“They mocked me, saying that I was stateless and that my parents had me before they got married,” she recalled.

“They said a lot of harsh things. That is why I don’t mind talking openly about this issue because I want people to know what it means to be stateless, and to be aware that such a problem exists.”

In many cases, she said, the blame is laid on the parents but she sees no point in dwelling on this thought.

“I know this problem happened partly because of my parents but they are no longer alive,” she said.

“This is not my fault but I am the one who must struggle with it.”

What bothers Thinesh the most is the way many judge stateless children as worthless and without a future.

“These children have a lot of talent but they do not have any chance to express themselves and show their abilities,” she said.

While they are denied citizenship, she is confident that if given a chance, many would want to serve their country.

“Now, though, I cannot do anything and I live in constant fear. I really do not want to continue living like this.”

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