By Karen Bong
KUCHING, March 27: Rachel Sia is a beautiful and talented 19-year-old girl who dreams of one day becoming a pianist and travelling to see the country and the world. But Rachel is not close to achieving her dreams, let alone living a normal meaningful life because she is stateless.
She cannot go to college or university and she has never been outside of Sarawak.
Rachel was adopted by Peter Sia Chew Ong and Lau Kui Fua in 1999 when she was only a few days old. Her adopted parents have four children of their own. The family is from Sibu.
She has a birth certificate but without the names of her biological parents, who until now cannot be found or traced. But there was no trouble or issue until she was 12-years-old when she tried to apply for her identity card (MyKad).
Rachel’s birth certificate was taken away and cancelled by the National Registration Department (NRD). She was issued with a new birth certificate bearing her adopted or legal parents’ details.
Thereafter, they had tried applying to NRD for citizenship, but their efforts have been futile thus far. They were asked to wait but nine years have passed and, most importantly, time is fast running out for Rachel, who will be turning 21 in less than two years.
In her current situation, Rachel can apply for citizenship under Article 15A of the Federal Constitutions, in which her case will be considered under special circumstances. But once she reaches 21-years-old, she will have to apply independently under Article 19.
Rachel and her parents were accompanied by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Bandar Kuching branch chief Simon Siah to abruptly present her case to Home Ministry officials today at a ceremony to present citizenship approval letters under Article 15A to 10 recipients.
The event was officiated at by Minister of Welfare, Community Well-Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah at Wisma Wanita, Jalan Sultan Tengah, here.
Fatimah said that Rachel’s case has merits to be recommended to the Home Ministry, but the final decision lies with the ministry, which is headed by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
“We (Sarawak Special Committee) will recommend Rachel (case) together with many other cases with merits because there are applications that lack supporting documents. We have to insist on these documents from applicants so their applications can be successful,” she emphasised.
However, Fatimah pointed out that the Sarawak Special Committee that oversees stateless issues and applications under Article 15A has no authority to approve citizenship as it was the prerogative of the Home Minister.
Rachel’s mom could not hold back her tears when she narrated how Rachel, who was standing next to her, has had to endure and suffer harsh criticisms and insults during her schooling years over her stateless background in silence.
“She (Rachel) felt like she was nobody without meaning in this world. She had hurt herself and contemplated suicide (as a result) from all those bullies,” she said.
“She realised she was being given up on (by her real parents) when she was an infant and her country (Malaysia) rejected her at 12-years-old. She questioned what more can she do in life.”
Lau hoped that the state and federal governments could be fair in assessing Rachel’s situation and expedite the process of approving her citizenship because her future is at stake.
“There is no reason to reject Rachel because she was born here, raised here, live here, and we all love this country. Please recognise Rachel as a citizen of Malaysia and give her an identity card so she can live her life like a normal Malaysian, please,” she appealed.
“She is only 19-years-old, and she still has 40 or more years of her life ahead. She can contribute to the country, and we know that. She has a bright future ahead of her. She is innocent and so are we because we didn’t expect this to happen when we adopted her. We only wanted her to have a better life.”
When asked about her dreams, Rachel, who completed her secondary education at a private Chinese school in Sibu, instantly said: “I want to become a pianist. Now I am in Grade 5. And I want to go out and see the world.”
Siah pointed out that it was high time the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government removed their reservation over Article 7 of the United Nations Convention of The Rights of the Child (UNCRC), for which Malaysia was a signatory.
“The PH government should fully rectify Article 7 into our Malaysian Law so that all children born in Malaysia must be registered immediately after birth with their nationality as a Malaysian.
“With rectification of Article 7 of the UNCRC into our own constitution, there will be no need for the task force (Special Committee) anymore as the NRD will be empowered to give citizenship to children born in Malaysia,” he stressed.
When dealing with the issue of stateless children, Siah urged the government to show compassion to these innocent children and not look at them as a bunch of statistics or removable trash.
“The livelihood of a child must be paramount. Remember, these children did not commit any wrong when they were in whatever circumstances.
“We need to find a solution to this problem because, if not, Sarawak could be flooded with stateless persons. We must open our eyes and acknowledge that this cycle will continue until these children obtain their citizenship,” he added while urging the PH government to take action. — DayakDaily