MALAYSIA: Children denied citizenship because of woman’s stateless status

The story of Teresa Ratnam is a story of suffering, right from the time when she was an infant.

The 40-year-old mother of three from Jinjang Selatan Tambahan in Kuala Lumpur was abandoned at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital at the tender age of four when her parents sent her there for treatment.

Teresa cannot recall anything from her past except the names of the couple who adopted her and took care of her until both of them died, after which she had to fend for herself.

She discovered the agony of not having a birth certificate, and was declared stateless. Without a citizenship, she was unable to get an education, let alone a job.

She survived by working as a maid until she met a kind and loving man who married her and gave her the security and protection that she needed.

They have three lovely children — Daniel Christie, 12, Nelson Christie, 10, and Patricia Christie, five.

Teresa’s trouble begun when she and her husband G. Lawrence, 44, discovered that despite Lawrence being a Malaysian citizen, the authorities have denied citizenship to their three children as she is considered stateless.

Although Teresa was abandoned by her own parents, that did not stop her for being a loving and caring mother. It was simply heart-renting to see this woman sobbing and begging for mercy on behalf of her three children.

“Don’t let my children suffer because of me. Please have mercy,’’ Teresa sobbed as she pleaded for help to get citizenship for her children.

“I don’t want my children to suffer. They are innocent and should not have to go through what I went through in life,’’ she said.

“My wife is a victim of circumstances. Due to no fault of hers she is unable to prove her citizenship, but I am a Malaysian citizen and my children were all born here, yet the government is denying them their basic right,’’ Lawrence said.

He said he had spent 10 years of his life running from one government department to another trying to get his children’s citizenship problem resolved.

“In some places they have treated me very unkindly by pushing me from one officer to another, making me run around from Putrajaya to Kuala Lumpur and all over the place,’’ he said.

According to Lawrence, he has been to the National Registration Department, the Welfare Department, the Kuala Lumpur Hospital and the Public Complaints Bureau of the Prime Minister’s Department countless times yet no one was able to help him.

He said some officers even gave him wrong information which caused him to waste more time.

Lawrence is now desperate as his youngest child Patricia has been diagnosed to be suffering from a rare disease called Pierre Robin Syndrome, a congenital condition of facial abnormalities in humans, and she also has a heart problem and requires surgery as soon as possible.

“We need an OKU (disabled person identification card) from the National Registration Department to enable her to get free treatment from the National Heart Institute because I cannot afford it,’’ Lawrence said.

“But to get the card, she needs her citizenship, and it is an urgent matter,’’ he said.

Their eldest son Daniel passed his UPSR exams with five A’s and one B and will be going to Form 1 next year. But Teresa and Lawrence are worried that Daniel may not be able to go to Form 1 as he is not qualified to get the MyKad as he doesn’t have citizenship status.

“We did not have problems when he entered primary school but now the school is saying there may be problems with him enrolling into secondary level,’’ Lawrence said.

The family is seeking help from the Government to solve their problem and is hoping that Teresa’s natural parents or any other family member can come forward and produce documentation to prove that she was born in Malaysia.

According to the Federal Constitution, children born in Malaysia, with at least one parent holding citizenship is deemed qualified to be citizens.

It is strange that in this case, where the children’s father is a Malaysian citizen and they were born in Malaysia, they are still being deprived of their citizenship.

The Jinjang Selatan Tambahan Tamil Youth Club, the Jinjang Selatan MIC branch and Komuniti Bestari Jinjang Selatan are trying to help the family apply for citizenship for the children.

Further information

pdf: http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2008/11/19/central/2572690&s...Association: The Star, Malaysia

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