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In Felda settlement, hope fades for young brothers as citizenship wait stretches on

Wong Hao Xuan and Wong Hao Chen applied for citizenship six years ago but have yet to see any progress on the home ministry front.

Azzman Abdul Jamal
2 minute read
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Brothers Wong Hao Xuan and Wong Hao Chen do their homework in the kitchen of their home in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan.
Brothers Wong Hao Xuan and Wong Hao Chen do their homework in the kitchen of their home in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan.

In a tidy house in a Felda settlement in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, nine-year-old Wong Hao Xuan and his eight-year-old brother Wong Hao Chen hold up the medals and awards they have won so far at school and sporting events. 

Lined up on the worn leather sofa in the living room, the medals, trophies and certificates stand testament to the boys' love of sports and their studies. 

But the acknowledgement of their achievements pales in comparison to another form of recognition for which they have been waiting: the right to be called citizens of Malaysia. 

For four generations, their family has lived in Kampung Felda LBJ, located in the state capital. 

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Wong Hao Xuan and Wong Hao Chen with their father, Wong Choo Kian.

The brothers were declared stateless due to the late registration of their parents' marriage – in May 2017, some three years after Hao Xuan was born. 

Their father, Wong Choo Kian, tried applying for their citizenship several months later in November. 

But every time he contacted the home ministry to ask about the applications, he was given the same response: "Still in process." 

In March 2018, the family's circumstances took a turn for the worse when Choo Kian suffered a stroke and was forced to quit his job as a salesman. 

Speaking in an interview with MalaysiaNow, he said they were nonetheless fortunate to still have a roof over their heads. 

"This house belonged to my grandfather," he added. "We live here with my parents and my younger sister's family." 

It was his sister, Wong Tsai Mei, who stepped up to help with the expenses after he lost his job – including the cost of the boys' education. 

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Nine-year-old Wong Hao Xuan smiles as he holds up some of his trophies while his grandfather watches. 

While both Hao Xuan and Hao Chen are enrolled in school, they are not allowed access to other benefits such as free BCG immunisation, dental treatment, or even medical insurance. 

They are also deprived of the government assistance normally given to Malaysian children. 

Choo Kian worries about their future as he and his sister struggle to raise the boys and make ends meet. In this, they are alone as the boys' mother left home out of the blue early last year, saying she wished to find work elsewhere. 

They have not seen her since, although she contacts him from time to time to ask about the children. 

On the boys' application for citizenship, Tsai Mei said the last time they heard from the home ministry was in November. Again, the answer was the same: "Status unchanged."

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Wong Tsai Mei recalls the process of applying for her nephews' citizenship. 

She said all of the necessary documents, including the boys' birth certificates and their parents' marriage certificate, had been submitted to the ministry according to its own procedures. 

"I don't understand why it must take so long," she said. 

"I hope that the home ministry will pay attention to this, because the boys' future is at stake." 

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