PENANG, Oct 20 (Sin Chew Daily) — The early arrival of her baby has foiled Malaysian mother Alison Wee’s plan to deliver back home.
One day before Wee was scheduled to board a flight to Malaysia, her waterbag burst and she ended up delivering a premature baby by Caesarian section in China.
Wee, who is married to a Dutch when both of them were working in China then, started her ordeal of applying citizenship for her daughter with the Embassy of Malaysia in China.
Initially Wee was informed by embassy staff that the application would take several months.
Her daughter is five years old now and the application for citizenship is still pending.
Wee shared her ordeal at an online forum organized by Penang Women’s Development Corporation (PWDC) on “The right of mothers and children: what is the problem with citizenship?”
Chong Eng, the Penang executive councilor for social development and non-Islamic religious affairs, Teo Nie Ching, member of parliament for Kulai, Ong Bee Leng, chief executive officer of PWDC and Dr Wong Lai Yong, a member of the board of director of PWDC, also spoke at the forum.
Wee said she followed up with the embassy staff every six months on the status of her application.
“The embassy staff helped me to check with the authorities in Malaysia. Each time the reply is “the application is in process”.
“If I am a Malaysian man with a foreign wife living overseas, my children would have been granted citizenship in one week. But because I am a Malaysian woman, I have to go through the long and winding process,” said Wee.
Both Wee and her husband have reached a consensus that Malaysia is their home in Asia.
She is disappointed that her daughter is not recognized as a Malaysian.
“I feel sorry for my daughter. She sings Negaraku in the nursery every Monday. She can sing Saya Anak Malaysia, but she does not know that she is not a Malaysian,” Wee said.
Both Wee and her husband returned to Malaysia in January 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak in China.
They then discovered that it was difficult for the daughter to stay in the country for long term as a non-Malaysian.
“On March 17 last year, we took a train to the border of Thailand to have her passport stamped a day before the movement control order was implemented so that she could stay for another three months in Malaysia,” she said.
The little girl was required to visit immigration department regularly during the lockdown.
“We are back in Malaysia but we do not know how to settle down here on a long-term basis due to my daughter’s status.
“She will face a series of hazards when she starts schooling,” Wee said.
In a landmark judgment, a high court ruled on September 9 that children of Malaysian mothers and their foreign spouses born overseas would be granted automatic citizenship like children of Malaysian fathers.
Wee said it was good news for Malaysian mothers. Some families even held celebrations for the court’s decision.
“But the government’s decision to appeal against the ruling is like pouring a pail of cold water on us,” she said.
Evelyn Setiawan is a 23-year-old student born overseas. She returned here to live with her Malaysian mother.
As a non-Malaysian, Setiawan is not entitled to education and medical services free of charge.
“I was born with cleft lips and a surgery in a private hospital will cost RM20,000.
“If I am a citizen, I can undergo surgery in public hospital which is free,” said Setiawan.
At the age of 18, Setiawan’s mother applied citizenship for her.
She has since been waiting for the outcome of the application for five years.