Former top scorer says hope renewed after PM’s citizenship announcement

Yiswaree Palansamy
Roisah Abdullah speaks to Malay Mail during an interview in Petaling Jaya March 16, 2018. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 15 — Born in Malaysia but claimed by no country, former STPM ace Roisah Abdullah believes her struggle for citizenship may soon end.

The 21-year-old freshman at Tun Abdul Razak University is pinning her hopes on Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s announcement yesterday that the government will consider the citizenship application of local-borns under age 60 who have at least one Malaysian parent and pass a mandatory Bahasa Malaysia test.

“I feel grateful if this will be granted. It gives a new hope. It’s like a light at the end of a tunnel for youngsters like me, who have a long journey ahead of us.

“I am happy to hear this news and hopefully it will be resolved soon, for me and those who are stateless like me,” she told Malay Mail when contacted.

In his announcement, Dr Mahathir said the Pakatan Harapan federal government had decided to apply its GE14 manifesto to help secure citizenships for 3,407 Indians over 60 years old who hold red MyKads for permanent residents across the board.

The prime minister also said the government will next look into citizenship for children denied it because their parents do not have proper marriage documents.

Roisah has been stuck in limbo over her citizenship from birth, despite past promises of help from the previous Barisan Nasional government after her statelessness was highlighted in the media, including Malay Mail.

Born to a foreign mother and an absentee Malaysian father, she was officially adopted by a Malaysian woman named Satrah Nabowah.

Her adopted mother had worked as a tailor to support Roisah and fought for the girl to attend school — which is not an automatic right for stateless children — but failed to get her registered as a Malaysian citizen and subsequently died in 2014 at the age 61.

Children born in Malaysia but fail to get their citizenship are often thrown into a complex bureaucratic and legal mess, leaving them with an uncertain future.

Many are usually denied access to public schools, public health care, and can’t even leave the country through legal channels, resulting in an endless cycle of statelessness.