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A 45-year wait

  • Chen is grief-stricken having to keep waiting for his blue IC after 45 years. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily.
  • Although he has the birth certificate to support his citizenship, Chen is still unable to get a blue IC today. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily.
  • The birth certificate issued by the National Registration Department office in Muar in 1952. Its colonial-style format has raised the suspicion of government officials today. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily.
  • In the birth certificate redone in 2002, Chen's nationality is labelled "yet to be determined." Other than the names and ethnic origin of his parents, all the other columns have been labelled "unknown." Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily.

Born and raised in Malaysia, and is even five years older than Malaysia, Chen Shunhao could only be contented with a red IC despite his 45-year wait for the Malaysian citizenship.

Chen's heart was particularly painful after reading the cover story on Sin Chew Daily several days ago that many were finally granted citizenships after decades of waiting.

No EPF for over 20 years

Now a retiree, 57-year-old Chen said during an exclusive interview with Sin Chew Daily at his Melaka home that he used to work for someone for well over two decades, but as he was only a red IC holder, he was not entitled to EPF benefits, resulting in him having to lose at least RM20,000 of his old-age saving.

Ironically, he said when he was working in Singapore in the 1970s, he was entitled to S$1,000 of CPF (central provident fund)!

"Besides, when I went to the post office to get the RM165 petrol rebate last year, I was told that I was not entitled to it because of the colour of my IC."

He said he was also denied the eligibility to register for a wireless phone line because of his red IC.

Born in Bakri, Muar, Chen settled down in Melaka with his parents when he was only one year old. When he was applying for IC at the age of 12, he was only given a red IC, as he was told by the official that he was not born in the state of Melaka, and that his IC would be automatically changed to blue IC when he reached the age of 21.

However, when he applied for a blue IC at 21, the National Registration Department official insisted that he passed the Bahasa Malaysia test first.

With only a Standard Four education, Chen had very limited knowledge of the national language and did not understand most of the questions put forward by the official.

"I told him I only had very limited formal education, and he told me to go back to school and study and apply later..."

He went back twice for the tests when he was 28 and 29, but again he failed.

"It is not so much a problem communicating with my Malay friends in day-to-day dialogues, but the official was asking me current affairs in formal Bahasa Malaysia. I didn't even understand his questions!"

He said over the years he had been seeking the assistance of various state assemblymen from the ruling as well as opposition parties. He said even if they were kind enough to help, he was still unable to get a blue IC as the National Registration Department had the final say.

How long more to wait?

This June, Chan received a letter from the authoritites asking him to bring along to the JPN the photocopies of his IC as well as those of his wife and four children.

He did as instructed. However, the official on duty didn't even bother to take a look at his documents, asking only his date of birth instead. He was later told to keep waiting.

"I'm already 57 now! How long more can I wait?"

Chen said the various hardships he had encountered could no longer be compensated, and all he wanted was a blue Malaysian IC. Most importantly, he said he did not want his chidlren to be troubled because of a red IC-holder father. (Translated by DOMINIC LOH/Sin Chew Daily)

MySinchew 2009.09.24


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