THE LONG ROAD TO CIT­I­ZEN­SHIP

Malah Karup­payah tells FER­NANDO FONG how she and her daugh­ter ob­tained their MyKad af­ter years of strug­gle

New Straits Times - - News -

MALAH Karup­payah, 49, was a state­less child. Born in Ne­gri Sem­bi­lan to a Malaysian mother and an In­dian father, she even­tu­ally ob­tained her Malaysian cit­i­zen­ship fol­low­ing a life-changing jour­ney.

Here is her story.

“I was born in a rub­ber es­tate in Ne­gri Sem­bi­lan. My father was from Ker­ala, In­dia, while my mother was a Malaysian cit­i­zen.

“My mother passed away while giv­ing birth to me, while my father passed away sev­eral years later due to ill­ness.

“I was put un­der the care of my rel­a­tives. I moved with them to an­other rub­ber es­tate in Pa­hang, where I grew up.

“I never asked about my na­tion­al­ity un­til I was 11. I won­dered why I was not al­lowed to go to school like my friends in the es­tate.

“My rel­a­tives told me that I did not have a birth cer­tifi­cate, but un­known to me, the gov­ern­ment clinic where I was born had kept a record of my birth. And so, I never had the chance to go to school.

“When I was 16, I de­cided to leave the es­tate. I hitched a ride from a lorry driver, who was trans­port­ing oil palm from the nearby es­tate, to Kuala Lumpur.

“I had noth­ing but a bag of clothes. By the time I reached the cap­i­tal, it was night time and he dropped me off in front of the Pudu­raya bus ter­mi­nal.

“With­out any money, I found shel­ter in a nearby Hindu tem­ple.

“The fol­low­ing morn­ing, a man who came to pray at the tem­ple asked me what I was do­ing there all by my­self.

“I told him my story and he of­fered me a job as a helper at his ba­nana leaf restau­rant near Pe­tal­ing Street.

“I ac­cepted the of­fer and was given lodg­ing in a dor­mi­tory for work­ers, who were mostly for­eign­ers, above the restau­rant.

“I worked hard, ate sim­ple but sat­is­fy­ing meals and saved some money, which I could not keep in the bank.

“Be­ing a state­less per­son, things such as open­ing a bank ac­count , which many peo­ple take for granted, was some­thing I had been dream­ing of.

“There had been peo­ple who of­fered to help me get my cit­i­zen­ship, but all they did was take my money.

“In 1996, a pa­tron at the restau­rant of­fered to help me. He had been a reg­u­lar cus­tomer but I never knew who he was then.

“On that day, we had a small chat at the restau­rant and he was sur­prised to dis­cover that I had no iden­tity card.

“So, he got his peo­ple to help me. That’s when I learned that the good Sa­mar­i­tan was (former MIC pres­i­dent and works min­is­ter) Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu.

“Five years later, I got my MyKad and birth cer­tifi­cate from the Na­tional Regis­tra­tion Depart­ment (NRD). But there was one more hur­dle to over­come.

“A year prior to get­ting my cit­i­zen­ship, I gave birth to my daugh­ter in a gov­ern­ment hos­pi­tal (Malah got mar­ried in 2000).

“As I was state­less, I was wor­ried that the hos­pi­tal would not al­low me to de­liver her, so I gave an alias for my daugh­ter’s birth cer­tifi­cate.

“As I could not prove my cit­i­zen­ship, my daugh­ter was given a red birth cer­tifi­cate (for nonci­t­i­zens).

“Af­ter re­ceiv­ing my cit­i­zen­ship, the first thing I did was reg­is­ter my mar­riage. Next, I ap­plied for a green birth cer­tifi­cate (for cit­i­zens) for my daugh­ter, but it was re­jected by NRD.

“I was told that the rea­son for the re­jec­tion was be­cause my name on my iden­tity card was dif­fer­ent from what was stated on my daugh­ter’s birth cer­tifi­cate.

“My hus­band, a lorry driver, didn’t know what to do, since we are both il­lit­er­ate.

“In 2007, we en­rolled our daugh­ter in a school and found out that we had to pay higher school fees.

“Since she was not a cit­i­zen, she was not al­lowed to rep­re­sent her school in sports al­though she was a good bad­minton player.

“When she fell sick, we could only take her to pri­vate clin­ics.

“She had to get spe­cial ap­proval from the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry be­fore she could sit the Ujian Pen­ca­pa­ian Seko­lah Ren­dah ex­am­i­na­tion.

“My hus­band and I knew we had to do some­thing. We didn’t want her to suf­fer like me.

“It was not easy. We wasted a lot of time and re­sources, trav­el­ling to and fro gov­ern­ment of­fices in Klang and Putrajaya.

“One day, I heard from the ra­dio that a non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion called De­vel­op­ment of Hu­man Re­sources in Ru­ral Ar­eas (DHRRA) helps state­less peo­ple.

“I went to their of­fice in Sungai Way, where my daugh­ter and I had a DNA test.

“The test cost RM1,600 and was spon­sored by DHRRA, which I was thank­ful for.

“My daugh­ter, Mo­gana Thi­aggu, fi­nally got her MyKad this year at the age of 16.

“For those who are wait­ing to get their cit­i­zen­ship, I hope they con­tinue to per­se­vere and not give up.”

There had been peo­ple who of­fered to help me get my cit­i­zen­ship, but all they did was take my money.

PIC BY ROSELA IS­MAIL

Malah Karup­payah (left) and her daugh­ter, Mo­gana Thi­aggu.

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