Fatimah: Follow proper adoption procedures to avoid stateless issues

Fatimah (with Elven on her lap) in a group photo with all the recipients of citizenship and their family members.

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, June 19: Irregularities in birth registration of a child by guardians or adoptive parents and failure to fulfil legal adoption procedures have major implications on the outcome of citizenship applications.

Minister of Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said the National Registration Department (NRD) had discovered cases where adoptive parents registered children with false birth documents.

“They are supposed to be registered as the adoptive parents and not biological parents. This is construed as false information,” she said at a ceremony to present letters of approval for citizenship under Article 15A of the Federal Constitution at Wisma Wanita, here, today.

“This method of adoption was a trend, especially from the 1990s to mid-2000, and normally done without going through proper adoption processes because the children are taken through middlemen. They also don’t know and could not find the biological parents.”

To address this problem, she explained that these children would be issued birth registration documents without information of the biological parents and indicated with unknown status/not citizens.

“Thereafter, the guardians or adoptive parents must obtain custody rights by court order, make a declaration at the District Office and subsequently file the application for citizenship under Article 15A at the NRD,” she added.

Other predicaments faced by applicants under Article 15A include the birth of a child outside of marriage and couples who did not register their marriage. Most of the cases involved foreign women.

“We hope one day there will be no more such applications. With a better understanding of this issue, it is hoped that parents can avoid making the mistakes that will complicate the process of registering a child as a citizen of Malaysia,” she stressed.

At the ceremony today, seven of nine successful applicants were present to receive their letters of approval for citizenship.

Fatimah (in pink baju kurung) presenting the letter to Elven, who is accompanied by his mother, Tjang (left). Also seen are Francis (behind Fatimah) and Abang Noraffian (right).

The youngest recipient is four-year-old boy Elven Lai, whose father Lai Ching Fong and mother Tjang Mina from Indonesia had registered their marriage late.

“Due to the late registration of our marriage, our son’s citizenship followed the mother,” Lai told reporters.

“We only started applying for our son’s citizenship last year.”

Meanwhile, housewife Ling Ching Kiew, together with her two adopted children, Kueh Xin Ying, 18, and Kueh Jun Jie, 13, had travelled all the way from Miri to receive the letters of approval.

Ling revealed she adopted daughter Xin Ying from Bintulu and Jun Jie from Sibu when they were only a few days old. They were without birth certificates.

Ling, together with daughter Xin Ying and son Jun Jie in a photo after receiving their letters of approval for citizenship.

“We don’t know who their biological parents are, and they were never found. So we (she and her husband) went to great lengths from registration for birth certificates to citizenship, including engaging lawyers.

“My children attend public schools, but we have to pay an annual fee of RM120 for primary school and RM240 for secondary school. In addition, they cannot do anything more, include travelling outside the state,” she shared about the challenges.

Ling is grateful her children can finally have the freedom to enjoy their rights, pursue their dreams and find jobs in future.

“Now, we can even plan for a vacation outside Sarawak together,” she said, with a tint of delight in her voice.

So far, 723 applications for citizenship under Article 15A have been presented for the action of the state-level special committee scrutinising this matter. Of the figure, 127 applications have received approval letters, while the Home Ministry will inform its decisions on the rest through posts.

The special committee has no authority to grant approval as they only act to facilitate and put forward the support and recommendations for genuine cases. All the decisions come from the Home Ministry under the leadership of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Assistant Minister of Community Well Being Datuk Francis Harden Hollis and NRD Sarawak director Abang Noraffian Abang Ibrahim were also present. — DayakDaily