PUTRAJAYA (Sept 6): It has been a 30-year-old wearying battle for Letchumy Suppiah, a Malaysian born, who has been fighting to be recognised as the citizen of this country along with her two daughters.
And today, her decades of struggle – including a legal remedy – had finally paid off as the National Registration Department (NRD) had agreed to grant the three stateless Indian women certification verifying their citizenship status on Monday.
Letchumy, 70, and her daughters Mala Kothandu, 45, and Sarojini Kothandu, 33, had sought for a court order to compel the NRD to issue them the blue identity cards (MyKad) after a series of rejection claiming the trio were not citizens by law.
“I am very happy, it is all finally ending… Now my daughters can do what is necessary for their lives,” said Letchumy, relieved.
The trio, accompanied by their lawyers Latheefa Koya, Eric Paulsen and N Surendran, had submitted the relevant documents and forms to NRD here this morning after they were informed on Sept 2 that their claims will be processed.
This comes after the Kuala Lumpur High Court instructed NRD to settle the matter amicably on July 19 after the counsels argued their case in the judicial review filed Dec 10 last year.
The complication faced by the septuagenarian, who holds a red identification card or MyPR signifying that she is not Malaysian, is allegedly faced by hundreds and thousands of ethnic Indians.
Letchumy, who was born in Tanjung Sepat, Selangor only received permanent resident (PR) status recently, when she had filed for citizenship in 2008.
Her claim for citizenship was denied as the NRD refused to take into account the background of her birth place.
Letchumy’s daughter, who only have their birth certificates, were also deprived of education as their mother was the sole breadwinner for the family after their father died in 1990.
When her eldest daughter turned 12, Letchumy had approached various individuals to obtain the MyKad for Mala, and later for Sarojini – but she was cheated consecutively.
The single mother, who has been working odd jobs – including cutting grass and cleaning houses – claimed her children were also not eligible for government assistances without the fundamental identification.
Their suffering prolonged when the marriages of Mala and Sarojini were not solemnised according to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, which inadvertently also affected the birth rights of their children.
With the verification of citizenship status, the three women will be able to apply for their MyKad and eventually be able to tap into government aide for impoverished families.
Speaking to fz.com, Sarojini related that her eldest daughter who is now 13, was also denied the MyKad as the latter’s citizenship status was still a conundrum.
“We are very happy, they have finally agreed. We have to get our marriage registration sorted and correct our children’s birth certificates,” she said.
“I can look for a job now, after all this years,” said Sarojini, smiling and hugging her children.
Surendran said there are about 300,000 Indians facing similar problems and the government should take precedents from this case to resolve pending cases.
“For many years, this family went through many third parties and were cheated. Last year, they approached us at the stateless Malaysians protest (on Nov 24) and here we are today,” said Surendran.
“They rejected it when we followed the procedure and applied, but now it can be done because we went to court,” he claimed.
Paulsen added that the family has been hindered at every level, until a legal remedy was sought. “But not all have access to legal representation,” he said.
“This family is a very typical example of the thousands of stateless people in Malaysia. This is a right enshrined in the constitution. The government must come to its senses and stop penalising these vulnerable group of people,” he said.
In the judicial review, the applicants are also seeking damages for being denied their rights as stipulated under the federal constitution and other laws.
They are also asking for costs and other reliefs deemed fit by the court.
Hearing of the case has been fixed for Sept 18.
by Pathma Subramaniam, FZ.com