Waiting 30 years, woman says unfair that Zakir Naik gets PR

Sandra-MonteiroPETALING JAYA: A stateless woman is shocked that foreigners in Malaysia can easily be granted permanent residence (PR) status while her rights have been denied even though she was born here.

Sandra Monteiro claimed it was unfair that Zakir Naik, a controversial Islamic preacher, was granted PR status five years ago, according to a recent report.

“It is very unfair to me and the rest of the stateless people staying in Malaysia, who have been trying for many years to be acknowledged and to get hold of PR status,” she said.

Monteiro, 39, lamented the fact that Naik and other foreigners from Bangladesh and Indonesia were able to obtain their PR status easily while her request for citizenship was rejected.

Monteiro, who is currently residing in Petaling Jaya, said her application for citizenship was rejected due to a lack of documentation on her adoption.

“They rejected my application because they claimed that my adoption procedure was improper. That I was not adopted before I reached the age of 21,” she said, explaining that she was in fact adopted by her parents shortly after she was born.

According to her, it was just a technical issue because her parents did not receive the proper advice as to what needed to be done to legally adopt her at the time.

“They just obtained a birth certificate for me. They were not aware about all the necessary procedures to show that I was adopted,” Monteiro said, adding that there was also no mention of her being an adopted child in the birth certificate.

Monteiro has tried every channel to gain citizenship, but her efforts have not been successful.

However, despite being denied citizenship, Monteiro said she was lucky to be supported by her foster family and friends.

“I was lucky enough to have friends and family to support me, and now I am working for my foster sister,” she said.

In an interview with The Star in 2008, Monteiro said her troubles started at age 12, when the national registration department refused to issue her with an identity card.

“I started schooling without any problem as I had my birth certificate, but when I was 12, my father took me to the registration department. However, they refused to issue me with an identity card.

“They said the adoption process should have been done, and they even said I could be from India.

“They also noticed the age on my mother’s birth cert, and that she was 54 at the time,” she said.

Meanwhile, speaking on the issue of stateless people in Malaysia, human rights activist James Nayagam said any abandoned child would be deemed to be stateless.

“Any child who is abandoned and where the parents are nowhere to be found is deemed stateless. They remain stateless whether they are cared for in private welfare homes or in government-run homes,” he said.

Nayagam said this stateless issue had been ongoing in Malaysia since the 1960s.

He also said stateless people face a lot of difficulty, especially in getting a proper education and being employed, because they hold a green IC.