Stateless woman loses court battle to get Malaysian citizenship

Tan Soo Yin (right) with her lawyer Jasmine Wong outside the High Court after the proceedings today.

KUALA LUMPUR: A stateless woman today failed to obtain a High Court declaration that she is a Malaysian citizen.

High Court judge Mariana Yahya dismissed Tan Soo Yin’s lawsuit seeking citizenship on grounds that she had failed to prove that her biological parents were Malaysians, as required under Section 1(e) in the Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution.

Tan, who was spotted weeping after the court’s decision, said she felt disappointed.

“It is only a (identity) card. It was not that I have done something wrong in my life,” she said in Mandarin, referring to her wish to have a MyKad and to be legally recognised as a Malaysian.

The 37-year-old said she has been holding a temporary resident identity card or MyKas since she was 19, and she could not apply for anything with it.

“I cannot work, apply for a bank account or get a driving licence. These are things that make me heartbroken thinking about it,” Tan said.

She said she has no knowledge about her biological parents, who she said abandoned her after she was born in the hospital.

“My adoptive mother said they left me. Over the years, people asked me where I was from. I don’t know what to tell them about my background because I am equally in the dark,” she said.

She said she felt sad for her teenage daughter who is facing the same fate.

“She is now in Form 4 and my former husband’s relative is taking care of her.

“I just want her to lead a decent life and get a proper education so that she won’t be like me,” Tan said, adding that she only studied for two years in a primary school before her adoptive mother took her out of school and told her to work in a plantation.

Tan’s lawyer Jasmine Wong said she had done her best to look for her biological parents before coming to court.

She said that one of the avenues Tan could pursue was to file an appeal against today’s court decision.

“Alternatively, she can submit the application for citizenship by registration under Article 19 of the Federal Constitution or citizenship by naturalisation,” Wong said.

“But the issue now is that she is not allowed to even apply for Article 19 because her birth certificate doesn’t have details of her biological parents.”

In a separate case today, the court also dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Sarawakian couple asking the court to declare their adopted teenage son a Malaysian.

The couple adopted the boy two years ago and the boy’s birth certificate states that he is a “non-citizen”.

Lawyer Toh Kah Yung, representing the family, said Mariana dismissed their suit on grounds that the Sarawak Adoption Ordinance did not specify that a child could obtain citizenship through the parents after he was officially adopted.

“The courts here said the Adoption Act and Ordinance are silent on whether the child can acquire citizenship after he is adopted,” he said.

He added that the family had made attempts to look for details of the teenager’s biological parents in the hospital the boy was born in, but the effort proved futile.