- Advertisement -

Mum's citizenship comes a day too late for stateless woman

Fatimah has been without citizenship for four decades and is upset with government and opposition leaders alike

3 minute read
Fatimah, living as a stateless person all her life, with her expired MyKas identity card.
Fatimah, living as a stateless person all her life, with her expired MyKas identity card.

Sitting next to her parents, Fatimah (not her real name) recalls the time she had a high fever a few years ago, but was unable to visit a nearby clinic for treatment.

The eldest of five siblings said that every time she falls sick, she couldn't bring herself to go to a doctor.

"It's not because I can't afford it, but because I'm ashamed, low on self-esteem and worried how people will look at me when I tell them that I don't have an identity card," she told MalaysiaNow.

Fatimah, 41, said her citizenship application was rejected twice without good reason.

She first made the application in 2002 under Article 15(A) of the Federal Constitution, and then again in 2017 under Article 19.

One-day gap

In 2018, Fatimah was granted an interview session. Four years later, her world came tumbling down when she was told that her application was rejected.

She was born in September 1983 just one day before her mother was granted citizenship.

That essentially means that Fatimah was born to a foreigner, even if it is only for a day.

In addition, she was informed that her citizenship bid failed because she had an Indonesian passport during the time she applied in 2002, as well as no proof of entry permit into the country.

But Fatimah was born in Malaysia.

"This only adds to the confusion because I was born in Malaysia, at Klang Hospital, educated in Malaysia from pre-school to diploma," she said, adding that the Indonesian passport under her name was never used at all.

Both her parents and siblings are already Malaysian citizens.

From the age of 12 to 21, she was issued a Permanent Residence card, or red Mykad.

Later, she was issued MyKas, the identification card issued to those born in Malaysia but whose citizenship could not be determined, in other words, stateless.

She carried MyKas for 15 years until it expired in 2019.

Her application to renew MyKas was rejected three times, the last time in 2020.

This makes her not only stateless, but also without any identification document.

Fatimah said she, like many others without citizenship, could not lead a normal life.

This includes getting a driver's license, having their own phone number, a bank account or own a business.

Over the course of four decades, she met countless number of government officials in her fight for identification documents and citizenship status in the land she was born in.

With help from family members, Fatimah has been sending letters and emails to leaders hoping they could come hear her plight.

In August last year, she wrote to Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, appealing to him to fulfil his Pakatan Harapan's election promise to solve the problem faced by thousands of stateless people like her.

The letter was handed personally to Anwar's eldest daughter Nurul Izzah, when her mother and siblings managed to slip in the envelope to the poltiician during a state election campaign in Pandamaran, Klang.

On March 21, Fatimah sent an email to the PKR office hoping to get the ruling party's attention.

MalaysiaNow has seen both letters.

Saddened by politicians

With the government's recent attempt to amend the constitution to deny automatic citizenship to those who are stateless, including those born in the country, how PKR will respond to Fatimah's plight is anyone's guess.

The proposal drew strong objections from activists involved in championing the plight of the stateless and foundlings.

The government later decided not to proceed with the proposal, only to be criticized by Perikatan Nasional who wanted Putrajaya to go ahead with the controversial amendments.

Fatimah is saddened by this stand taken by the opposition.

She said politicians will not understand the sufferings of the stateless people.

She said words cannot describe their feelings and pains living without citizenship.

"So when we fail to understand and we don't feel it, the oppression will continue for individuals like me.

"They (politicians) and their lives are not affected. It is only those like us who are deprived of this citizenship status.

Fatimah said she has been suffering long before the recent talk on the amendments.

"I have lived during the era of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Abdullah Badawi, Najib Razak, Muhyiddin Yassin, Ismail Sabri and now under Anwar and Malaysia Madani.

"Is my struggle over?" she asked, her voice trembling in holding back emotions.