THREE members of a family filed a suit against the National Registration Department (NRD), Home Ministry and the Malaysian government today at the Jalan Duta High Court for rendering them stateless.
Letchumy Suppiah, 69, and her two daughters, Mala Kothandu, 34, and Sarojini Kothandu, 32, are seeking a declaration that the Government had impinged on their fundamental rights by denying their applications for identity cards (ICs) despite being born and bred in the country.
They are also seeking a court order to compel the NRD to issue them blue ICs which denote their citizenship, and damages.
When met at the lobby of the court, Sarojini said the family, who hail from Kapar, Klang, had tried numerous times to apply for ICs but they were rejected by the NRD.
Both sisters could not receive formal education because they are stateless.
Sarojini, who has been married for 14 years to a Malaysian citizen, also said she could not obtain a marriage certificate as she does not have an IC.
“We have tried numerous times to obtain our identity cards from the NRD but they had rejected our applications,” she said.
“We even paid middlemen to get it done but we were cheated,” she added.
Born and bred here in 1943, Letchumy has lived here with her red identity card (IC) as a permanent resident.
Mala and Sarojini only have their birth certificates to show their existence but their citizenship is noted as “not determined.”
As Sarojini cannot find work, her husband Tamil Selvam Karuppiah, 42, is supporting a family of five with a meagre monthly salary of RM1,400 as a lorry driver, transporting palm oil fruits to refineries.
“We have a bank loan for the house we live in. I pay RM400 every month so that leaves us with RM1,000,” he said.
“We have to go to private clinics to get medical treatment,” he added.
Sarojini’s two children, Hemarani, 12, and Puvaneeswaran, 7, are also stateless because her marriage is not recognised by the Government.
PKR vice president N. Surendran said there was no excuse for the NRD to refuse the three individuals their ICs.
“They are automatically Malaysians because they were born here,” he said.
“This is a serious breach of their rights. The burden of documentation does not lie with the people, it lies with the department (NRD),” he added.
He said this case will set a precedent for other stateless Malaysians.
Lawyer Latheefa Koya and Lawyers for Liberty adviser Eric Paulsen were also present.
Koya said a recent letter dated Sept 29, 2012 from NRD director general Datuk Jariah Mohd Said informed the family that the department could not issue them their ICs as they will “never qualify” for citizenship under the stipulations of the Federal Constitution.
Paulsen said the family was subjected to “institutionalised discrimination”.
He said Sarojini’s children should be conferred citizenship because they were born in Malaysia and their father Tamil Selvam is a Malaysian citizen with a valid MyKad.