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30 years of waiting for citizenship

Baljit Kaur was abandoned by her birth mother when she was very young and has none of the official documents required to prove her right to be called a Malaysian.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
2 minute read
Baljit Kaur has been waiting her entire life to be called a Malaysian citizen. Photo: Bernama
Baljit Kaur has been waiting her entire life to be called a Malaysian citizen. Photo: Bernama

At the age of 30, Baljit Kaur can remember very little of her birth mother. 

They were taken in by a Sikh family in Penang when she was very young. 

The head of the family, Swarn Singh, was blind but supported his family by running a nursery. 

According to him, Baljit's mother had come from Negeri Sembilan, hoping to find a job on the island. 

One day, she left the house and never came back. 

Swarn and his family raised Baljit as one of their own, but because her parents could not be found and she had no official documents, she was never granted Malaysian citizenship. 

Her foster sister, Sumir Kaur, said they had tried everything.

"In 2014, I applied to the Penang National Registration Department (JPN) to begin the process of tracking down Baljit's birth certificate," she said. 

"But because we had no documents whatsoever, JPN told us that they could not find her cert."

The family even took Baljit's case to Muhyiddin Yassin, during his tenure as home minister in 2019.

After the meeting, Putrajaya JPN conducted an investigation and managed to get approval for a late registration birth certificate for Baljit. 

The following year, they gave the family a form to apply for a temporary resident identification card or MyKas for Baljit. 

"They told us that we had to apply for a MyKas first, and after we got that, we could start the application process for citizenship," Sumir said. 

Baljit eventually succeeded in obtaining a MyKas, which stated her position as a "non-citizen". 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Sumir asked why they were told to apply for a MyKas in the first place as Baljit was entitled to Malaysian citizenship. 

She said Baljit had suffered greatly due to her lack of official certification. 

"She couldn't go to school because she had no documents. I was the one who taught her, at home. 

"She couldn't get a driving licence because she had no documents. For 30 years, she has just sat at home because she can't do anything without documents." 

Baljit's mental health also took a hit, and she spiralled into depression, attempting to take her own life nine years ago. 

But in spite of her lack of citizenship, Sumir said her sister continued to harbour dreams of what she could do one day. 

"She wants to be a chef," she said. "She has always wanted this. 

"She wants to open her own restaurant one day, if it is ever possible."