Patriot refers to the widely reported case of stateless Rohana Abdullah, a 22-year-old girl.
She was adopted by a Chinese Malaysian woman when she was abandoned at birth by her biological mother, who reportedly was an Indonesian.
This story has touched the hearts of countless caring netizens, including the home minister. Rohana’s story was first reported by Metro on 14 January 2022.
Rohana grew up under the care of her foster mother, Chee Hoi Lan, who was then a kindergarten teacher.
Despite being a Chinese and non-Muslim, Chee, a single woman, ensured that Rohana remained a Muslim.
For all those racist politicians and hate preachers, please let this story of Rohana and Chee be an eye-opener.
Patriot believes that this may not be the only case of abandoned children being raised by foster parents and growing up stateless owing to the difficulties in obtaining official documents to claim their identity as citizens of Malaysia.
We believe there are numerous cases where foster parents will have to wait for many uncertain years for children to successfully receive a national identity registration card from the Department of National Registration. The requirement also includes going through the official adoption process at the Department for Social Welfare and to obtain a court order for legal adoption of the child.
However, upon failing at the end of this long, time-consuming and tedious process, the child will remain stateless forever.
It is common knowledge shared among citizens that to obtain an identity card for a stateless child is an agonising wait for most foster parents that sometimes ends in total rejection by the registration department. Whatever the reasons may be for the rejection by the registration department, we need to take cognisance of the principles and right to living.
An undocumented child who is finally denied an identity card is made to suffer the consequence of the biological parents who abandoned them or gave them away for adoption, largely and often owing to economic and desperate circumstances.
The undocumented child was born innocent and the compassionate disposition of the adopting family or parents offers new hope for the child. Not giving legal status or citizenship to such a child is an agony beyond description all through their life.
If the child is proven to have been born in the country substantiated with supporting official documents, making the child stateless is an unimagined cruelty.
To reject and to deny any undocumented child their right to live a normal life and to let the child suffer statelessness as they grow up is the worst human rights violation that humans can inflict upon fellow humans.
Children made to suffer under a process that cannot go beyond rigid rules become victims of isolation and uncertainty. And this is most sinful, as all religions will tell you.
It is indeed senseless and thoughtless to deem an adopted child who is born innocent as stateless. Why crucify a guiltless child because of the action of the biological parents?
Every child born in this world deserves the right to live and lead a normal life. When the biological parents have to forsake or abandon their newborn, leaving the child in the care and love of foster parents, not granting citizenship to the child and keep them stateless is a fundamental deprivation to living a normal life with equal rights.
Patriot urges the relevant authorities to fully investigate issues relating to undocumented and stateless children and formulate policies that can resolve, accommodate and show compassion to the plight of these undocumented children so that they children too can claim their God-given rights to live a normal life.
Perhaps it is time to reset the rules and processes and raise them to be commensurate with this fast-developing nation of ours. In a country where Islam is the official religion, the authorities must set the standard to reflect the tenets of the religion that propagates compassion.
Retired Brigadier General Dato’ Mohd Arshad Raji is president of the National Patriots Association (Patriot)