SHAH ALAM, April 5 – Life may become a little more easier now for Mardavani, who had been stateless and had to go through many hardships before she finally got her Malaysian Identity Card (IC) recently at the age of 35.
The IC is the document that finally acknowledges a person as a citizen of this country and along with it, provides the holder all the privileges and rights that come with it, such as easier access to a decent education, proper employment, government aid and even voting rights.
Mardavani, the youngest of four siblings, was born in a village area in Banting, but as her father never got around to doing her birth certificate, leave alone the IC, she had to live with the stigma of having no proper document throughout her life. A dysfunctional family was one reason given for her predicament.
While her two older sisters had their blue ICs, she and her brother Ravi, 43, had no ICs. A DNA test result was one of the evidences that was finally used to prove the legitimacy of their case for a Malaysian citizenship.
Mardavani’s case was among the 758 documentation-related cases covering birth certificates, red identity cards, citizenship applications, adopted children with incomplete documents that had been resolved through the MySel, a programme mooted by Selangor state exco member and Kota Kemuning assemblyman Ganabatirau Veraman to help with documentation issues.
At an event Monday at Ganabatirau’s office here, Mardavani, Ravi (who also received his blue IC), and Raja, 15, who got his birth certificate met some media members to tell their story of hardship and the long wait for their respective documents and their joy having received their documents finally. The story of Raja, who has autism, was related by his father Madurai Veeran, 50, who also admitted that he was mostly to be blamed in his son’s case.
Ganabatirau said while the MYSel had been originally established to help the Indian community that had been long facing citizenship issues, people from other communities had been seeking their help as well.
A total of 2,724 applications had been received from September 2018 till March this year, with Malays accounting for 1,100 applications, Chinese 840, Indians 668 and 116 others.
Citizenship issues formed the highest number at 1,246 cases, followed by red ICs at 732, birth certificates 416, adopted children 251 and immigration cases 79.
Commending the work of Shanta Venugopal and Ragubathi, the two sole officers who had been handling the cases Ganabatirau said it had not been easy as there were many challenges for them, as the wait had been long in almost all cases.
“The processes are long, sometimes the decisions made are not consistent, but the two officers continue to work hard to help the people who come here for help.”
Nevertheless, there has to be more consistency, and a standard format that should be applied when approving or disapproving an application, he said.
“While we hear of foreigners getting their documents within few years of living in the country, it just amounts to discrimination when there are cases of legitimate Malaysians who have been living in the country from birth, and end up waiting for years to get any news on their applications,” Ganabatirau said.
While the government cannot be blamed fully for the delay in the approvals for citizenship or identity cards, as for most parts the people are at fault for not doing the right thing, but for the Home Ministry to keep them waiting for seven years or even more on their application and finally rejecting the application without proper explanation or reason, is not acceptable.
There needs to be more humanity in the way the Home Ministry handle these applications, especially those that involve Malaysian women who have had children with their foreign husbands, and remain stateless in the country, Ganabatirau said.
“While it is good news that Mardani and the others here have received their documents, we have to remember that there are many more living in some far flung rural areas still remain ignorant of the importance of documents and the processes involved. Some also have real problems, like living in areas without proper transportation, and do not understand what is required of them and just give up.
“Others have also taken things for granted and fail to get their children’s birth certificate or delay the application for IC at the age of 12 and start the process only when they start seeing the consequences of not having proper documents.”
Meanwhile, for Shanta Venu, who has spent the last few years going up and down between the National Registration Departments in Putrajaya and Shah Alam as well as the Home Ministry to sort out the many cases that have come her way, seeing a case being resolved and the joy of someone getting their documents finally is a big reward for her. It has not been easy, nevertheless, she said.
“I have also witnessed heartbreaks and in one case, a youngster who was an adopted child was suicidal because of her long wait to get her application of citizenship approved. She eventually got her documentation but not before going through such a turmoil.”