PUTRAJAYA: The five-year-long wait for stateless STPM top scorer Roisah Abdullah for her Malaysian citizenship is finally over.
Almost in tears, Roisah said she could hardly believe her eyes as she held on to a letter which certifies the approval of her Malaysian citizenship application.
“I am both shocked and excited. The first thing I want to do is to apply for the MyRapid Unlimited Travel Pass (which only allows Malaysian applicants).
“This is an early birthday gift for me,” said Roisah who will be celebrating her birthday on April 25.
Roisah proceeded to thank PKR Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin for making time today to collect the letter with her.
The letter could only be collected by an adoptive parent.
“I am also grateful to Mr Sathiya. From the time I was in Form 1 until I’m 22, he has been helping me with application procedures”, she said referring to M Sathiya, who is with the PKR Kapar social welfare bureau, and who was also present today.
“My teachers who have also helped, you know who you are. Thank you,” Roisah said when met by reporters after receiving her citizenship approval letter at the home ministry.
Roisah was born in a clinic in Klang to a Malaysian father and a foreigner mother, but was later placed under the care of her father’s relatives.
Roisah lived with her adoptive mother until the woman passed away in 2014, leaving her with no legal guardian.
“It was in 2013 that I realised I needed to have an identification card to enter into public secondary school. That was when we tried to apply for a birth certificate but was only allowed an adoptive parent certificate.
“While waiting for my Malaysian citizenship approval, I proceeded with school, but as a foreign student, and had to pay a levy of RM240 per year to the education ministry,” said Roisah.
Her problems did not stop there, as her situation without an identification card had also hindered her participation in school activities.
“I was active in the marching squad. But I could not proceed to state level competitions simply because I needed to apply to enter with an identification card.
“When I was of age to open a bank account I couldn’t do that either. I couldn’t obtain a driver’s licence too
“Even to get medical care, I can only get it at private clinics and those were very expensive,” she said.
According to Roisah, she waited for five years only to find out that her application had not been successful. No reason was given to her.
She knew that she could only further her studies in a public university if she had a Malaysian identification.
By then, Roisah said, she had given up on applying for public universities.
“It is automatic rejection for public universities if you don’t have a Malaysian identification card.
“But last year, after my story appeared in the press, Universiti Tun Abdul Razak approached me to offer me a scholarship. That was the only way I could further my studies,” she said.
Roisah came under Zuraida’s radar when her application was rejected last year.
N Surendran and Latheefa Koya of Lawyers for Liberty and Zuraida, who was then Ampang MP with the then opposition bloc, had pursued the case with former home minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, but to no avail.
It was then that Zuraida discovered the application for Roisah’s citizenship was rejected due to the absence of a legal guardian.
Zuraida then took the initiative to file as an adoptive parent to enable a fresh application for Roisah.
With the approval letter in her hand, Roisah hoped the citizenship application system would be improved.
“Actually it’s the system that is flawed. I believe that if the system is functioning, this problem will not arise and the system will be fair to everyone.
“I hope, for the rest who are like me and are applying for their citizenship, the process could be expedited as well.
“I know some kids who want to go to school but they can’t. And they ask themselves every day, why they can’t go to school.
“The feeling of people questioning my citizenship is not pleasant when I am born here; even the way I talk, I sound like a Malaysian. How else do I need to prove myself?” she asked.
Meanwhile, Sathiya said he was moved to tears just looking at the letter of approval.
“I worked for eight years on this case and I am very happy that Roisah can finally walk out of this building as a Malaysian.
“What wrong did she do to deserve this? Why bully children like her? The irresponsible parents are the ones who should be punished,” he said, claiming that there were many other similar cases.
Sathiya had been working in the background to collect the necessary proof of Roisah’s eligibility and they finally filed an application in 2013.
Meanwhile, when met by reporters, Zuraida said she filed to be an adoptive parent on the spot in March 2018 to ensure that Roisah had a chance at a fresh application.
“The government is trying to do something, a massive operation to clear this issue. The process should be fast tracked for these people,” she said.