GEORGE TOWN, Jan 26 — Unlike his peers, 17-year-old Muhamad Fitri Hassan Basri is not preparing for his final year SPM school-leaving examinations.
In fact, he has never attended school at all despite having been born and bred in Malaysia and neither has his brother Muhamad Rizal, 18, because of issues with their citizenship.
“We’ve been trying to apply for citizenship for our children for all these years but to no avail,” their father Hassan Basri Abdul Wahab, 61 told a news conference here today.
Hassan explained that he and his Filipino wife Siti Nurshuhada Abdullah, 52 — and the mother to both boys and two younger girls — married in the Philippines and only registered their marriage in 2012 when they returned to Malaysia.
By then, both Muhamad Rizal and Muhamad Fitri were born and classified as “non-citizens” in their birth certificates, despite Hassan Basri being Malaysian.
While children with Malaysian citizenship can be enrolled into local public schools easily, entry is not automatic for non-citizens.
“This doesn’t make sense. Shouldn’t their citizenship be the same as their father? Because of this, my sons are not allowed to attend school and their future is now uncertain,” Hassan said.
He added that Muhamad Fitri is a talented silat athlete who has won silver and bronze medals in interstate tournaments but he was unable to represent the country due to his stateless status.
“He could have represented Malaysia in international silat tournaments but since he doesn’t have a Malaysian identity card, he can’t represent the country,” Hassan said.
Both boys are currently working as an assistant cook and a waiter in a western food stall while their sisters Farah Elisha, 13, and Natasha Kartika, 12, are studying at the Convent Light Street as foreign students.
“We have to pay foreign student fees for them to study there,” Hassan said.
The problem plaguing Hassan’s family is but one out of 41 other cases highlighted by Penang PKR today by its programme coordinator A. Kumaresan, Padang Serai MP N. Surendren, Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin and lawyer Latheefa Koya.
Sim said children, whether stateless or not, should be allowed to attend school as this is the most basic rights for all.
“There is a failure in the system in the education department and the national registration department,” he said.
He said the children’s future are now at risks as they were denied formal education especially in cases like Muhamad Rizal and Muhamad Fitri.
“Don’t deny the children their right to an education due to a family in the government systems,” he said.
Sim said this issue was brought up numerous times in Parliament but there were no resolution as stateless children continue to be in limbo.
He called on Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi to issue clear directions to allow these stateless children the right to education.
“Even though the education ministry announced that children who has one Malaysian parent will be allowed to enrol in government schools, many stateless children are still not allowed to attend schools,” Sim said.
Today, PKR collected the information of 41 children and submitted their applications for Malaysian documentations at the national registration department (NRD) here.
“We will ask NRD to resolve these cases because these children have either a Malaysian mother or father but they were not given citizenship,” Surendran said.
He believed there are many other unreported cases, not only in Penang but in whole Malaysia.