In Selangor, another stateless child awaits citizenship to attend school

BY A. RUBAN
Thevasegamani (centre) speaking during a press conference in Klang, January 15, 2018. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KLANG, Jan 15 — A father is at his wit’s end after the Selangor Education Department purportedly informed him that his 13-year-old daughter will not be able to attend school until she sorts out her citizenship status.

The girl’s estranged mother is an Indonesian citizen and the father, P. Thevasegamani had apparently registered her as a non-Malaysian citizen when she was born.

Thevasegamani claimed the National Registration Department (NRD) had also told him the same thing as the state education department.

But his daughter had attended public school until standard six despite having a non-Malaysian birth certificate.

“I am not sure what seems to be the problem now. My daughter was born in Klang in 2005 but because her mother is not a Malaysian citizen, we were told to register my girl as a non-Malaysian citizen.

“I paid a levy of RM120 to enrol her at a Tamil school here, but now the (state) education department is telling me get a passport for my daughter in order to go to a secondary school,” he told Malay Mail.

According to the 50-year-old local businessman, he has to get an Indonesian passport for his daughter.

To do that, he will need to include current particulars of his estranged wife, of which he no longer has any contact with.

Because the 13-year-old teen was conceived out of wedlock, Thevasegamani said she had to follow the status of the mother as a foreigner, and not the father’s citizenship status.

Several years after the child’s birth, Thevasegamani married and managed to get a court order in 2011 that officially recognises him and his wife as the guardians of the girl.

“But the court order seems to have no power over the orders given by the Immigration department to the Education department.

“I am not sure what the fate is for my daughter now and I appeal to the various parties to allow my kid to go to school as it has been two weeks since the school reopened,” he said.

Thevasegamani said he had applied twice for his daughter to become a citizen of Malaysia, but was rejected once.

The second application in 2016, he claimed, was still being processed.

Prior to this case, it was reported that a seven-year-old girl was also allegedly denied entry to a school in Seremban, Negri Sembilan pending her citizenship application.

The Seremban girl, known as Darshana, was adopted by lorry driver B. Ganesan, 46, and wife V. Malliga, 48, just days after she was born here in November 2011.

The couple were recognised as her legal guardians when their adoption was legally completed in 2015 as the identity and whereabouts of her biological parents are reportedly unknown.

She was initially denied enrolment into school as she lacked a proper passport, after being classified as a non-citizen following the lack of information about her biological parents.

She, however, was later reported as being allowed to attend school with a special pass from the Education Ministry.

In Penang, three other children faced a similar predicament after a circular, purportedly by the Immigration Department said that stateless kids need to provide passports to enter schools.

Immigration Director-General Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali has since clarified that the so-called circular was in fact a letter to the Education Ministry to clarify some issues pertaining to documents required for three categories of children to enrol in government or government-assisted schools.

He said that on November 28 last year, the Daily School Management Division of the ministry had submitted a letter asking for clarification on whether children who were born in and outside Malaysia would require a passport or valid travel document to enrol in government schools.

To which, he said the Immigration department had on December 28, responded in the letter explaining that foreigners who were born here or abroad required valid passports from their respective countries to allow the pass to be issued for residing in Malaysia.

The department, in the letter, also explained that only Malaysian-born children were not required to have a passport to reside in Malaysia.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had reportedly said that those whose applications were being processed should be allowed to attend school in the meantime.