From Cikgu Rukku
Meet my sister, Jaya Letchumi – posthumously. Yes, she died aged 72, stateless on Tuesday, June 15. She was a permanent resident of this country for 60 years. No, she was not bitter about being stateless, in fact, she died not knowing, not understanding or even caring about the fact that she was stateless.
You see, she was in a nursing home, in a world of her own and completely helpless and dependent on her care providers for everything. So helpless that she could not protect herself even from Covid-19 when the powerful virus found its way into the nursing home. Of course, that’s another story.
Let’s get on with her statelessness instead. Her application for citizenship made when she was 12 in 1960, was never approved until her passing.
Why was she stateless? Our father was a Malaysian, who served Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) for more than 30 years. Should she not have qualified automatically as a citizen?
If we are to understand correctly the latest statement from the home minister, that children of a Malaysian father automatically become Malaysian, should she not have become one on that basis alone?
Perhaps the home ministry can explain? In fact, the ministry should, because her citizenship application has been with the ministry for more than a year – being processed.
Or at least, that was what was communicated by a ministry officer to my other sister who had been pursuing the matter for several years now. She has given up.
Allow me to elaborate.
Jaya Letchumi alias Lichimy Ayatora as is stated in her red identity card (IC ) had other reasons to qualify her as a citizen. Her application would have clearly stated that she was born in Kuala Lumpur, had her birth certificate registered in Sungai Besi police station on Dec 10 1948. She was born, bred and lived her entire life in this country.
Her application was complete with proof of her birth certificate, her registration for IC done in Kelantan.
She went to a Tamil primary school in Seremban, where our father was posted as a railway man.
As our father was posted to various towns including Singapore in the 50s, where he served in the then Malayan railways, the family followed him.
Our mother, Saraswathy was born in Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan in 1933 and spoke excellent Malay and had to contend with a red IC for decades as well. She married my father in February 1948. Jaya Letchumi was their eldest child.
Saraswathy too died a permanent resident at the age of 85, even though all her remaining six children including me, who were all born in different parts of the country are citizens.
Following my sister’s attempts to get documentation for my mother and sister, a team from NRD came to my sister’s house in November/December 2017. They interviewed her and promised help.
However, no help came and instead, they gave her a brand new red IC. They asked my mother, a wheelchair-bound old woman who lived her entire life in Malaysia, to apply for a blue IC. She died in February 2018. She was 85.
Back to Jaya Letchumi. Maybe there were no real reasons why she did not apply for a blue IC at the age of 12. They were living in Tumpat, Kelantan. Back then, nobody really paid much attention to ICs and stuff like that or so I was told.
She also stopped her schooling in Tumpat after primary level, because she had to travel across the Kelantan river to Kota Bharu for secondary school. There was no bridge connecting Kota Bharu and Tumpat back then.
Jaya Letchumi also became sick in 1976 and was in and out of hospital for a good part of her life after that, and that perhaps may also explain why an IC did not figure as important as it should have. They were living in Teluk Intan by then. She was getting by with a red IC.
All her hospital records show her old red IC number. After my father died in 2005, she came under the care of my younger sister who made great efforts to get both my mother and sister their documentation.
In 2011, she started working towards citizenship for both my mother and sister after failing to get an OKU (disabled) card for my mother. She approached the national registration department in Putrajaya and was told that both of them had no documents. She gave up and tried again in 2016, after she managed to get some documents.
This process stopped for a while although progress was made. Some documents were found indicating that my mother had given up her Singapore documentation to get Malaysian citizenship in 1975. These records were traced through her brother who had served as a policeman.
Apparently, when my mother was 16, my father had been with KTM in Singapore, and got her a Singapore card then. Maybe they did not think that Singapore would part from Malaysia.
In any case, a formal and fully completed application for citizenship for Jaya Letchumi was done in 2020, although the whole exercise can be backdated to May 2018 after the Pakatan government came into force. The records are there.
The last reply from the ministry regarding the application for my sister was that it was under process. This was many months ago. Perhaps the ministry can explain the procedures involved in the process?
It may no longer serve any purpose for Jaya Letchumi, who is resting in peace right now. But it may just help many other “legitimate citizens” like her or our mother, who missed out on so many things including something as simple as an OKU card that would have made life a little more convenient.
With the death of my sister, my younger sister has also given up and has no plans to pursue this matter. However, I feel it is my time to raise this matter.
I know I cannot expect the ministry to say sorry. But it can at least acknowledge my sister’s application as genuine and give her the justice she deserves.
She was categorised as a foreigner under the Covid-19 death numbers.
Cikgu Rukku is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT