Wednesday, October 13, 2010


40-year wait for 69-year old Ujagar Singh (seated) before he finally received his citizenship award letter together with other successful applicants. (The Star)

It is not uncommon for people to wait decades for their Malaysian citizenship application to be finally approved. Take the case of Chen Shunhao, 57 (below). He has waited 45 years in vain to receive his citizenship paper. But he has not given up hope although he knows his chances of obtaining citizenship are slim. He has to pass the Bahasa Malaysia test first.

Born and bred in Malaysia, Chen has no problem communicating in colloquial BM, but with only a Standard Four education, he shouldn't be expected to answer questions about current affairs in formal BM, especially questions on names of royalties of the various states. I bet even the most educated among the citizenry would be hard put to provide the correct answers!

When our country gained independence on 31 Aug 1957, people born here (and in Singapore) aged 18 and above were required to apply for citizenship. My parents applied for and got their citizenship papers, but there were thousands who, either through ignorance or procrastination, did not send in their applications and ended up being issued with red identity cards. During the Emergency and the Japanese Occupation, many had lost their birth certificates and other documents, and were unable to apply for citizenship.

It has been 53 years since independence, and 47 years since the formation of Malaysia, but for many of these Malaysian-born elderly folks, their applications continue to be rejected for arbitrary reasons. They may re-apply but only after two years. That hasn't deterred seniors like Leong Chwee Chun, 64, (left, seen hugging the Home Minister) who has been re-applying since she was 28. She is among the lucky ones. Many have passed on while waiting. Others have given up or emigrated.

These seniors are accorded permanent resident status. They hold red identity cards which set them apart from Malaysian citizens who hold blue ICs or MyKads.
 The 92 new citizens taking their oath of allegiance at the National Registration Department in Putrajaya last year.

What problems do red IC holders face?

  • they pay higher medical and education fees
  • they have difficulty buying property, starting a business, opening bank accounts or getting credit cards in their own names
  • they also face problems getting well-paid jobs
  • they are not entitled to EPF retirement savings
  • they are subjected to restricted travel
  • they pay double for their passport which is valid for one year only
Lee Siok Bee, 91, finally received her Malaysian citizenship in June 2010 after 50 years!

Here's what the Constitution says:

Citizenship by registration (persons born in the Federation before Merdeka Day)

16. Subject to Article 18, any person of or over the age of eighteen years who was born in the Federation before Merdeka Day (31 Aug 1957) is entitled, upon making application to the Federal Govemment,
to be registered as a citizen if he satisfies the Federal Government—

(a) that he has resided in the Federation during the seven years immediately preceding the date of the application, for periods amounting in the aggregate to not less than five years;
(b) that he intends to do so permanently;
(c) that he is of good character; and
(d) that he has an elementary knowledge of the Malay language.

Sounds straightforward enough. So what are the reasons for the long delay in granting or rejecting citizenship applications? I quote from the ministry's homepage:
  • Each application shall be studied thoroughly
  • Each application will undergo Security Clearance process by PDRM (Royal Malaysian Police Force)
  • To ensure each application is genuine.
Note this: Citizenship status represents the highest award granted by the Federal Government to foreigners.

Foreigners? We are talking about people who were born and bred here. Do any of these grandmas and grandpas look like they are security threats to the country? What sort of criminal records might they have that would require the police 30-40 years to clear them?

Under the government's transformation programme, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, has given his assurance that the ministry would try to resolve every application between three and six months and not exceed more than two years.

Well, try and convince Ross Francis Xavier, 89 (above). He is still waiting to hear if his application is approved. Stricken with prostate cancer, he knows he does not have time on his side to wait indefinitely.

The number of stateless people in the country has reached the 90,000 mark. You will need a miracle, Mr Home Minister, to clear this huge backlog.

And so for these elderly applicants, the waiting continues... 


Top Mutual Funds said...

The number of stateless people in the country has reached the 90,000 mark. You will need a miracle

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