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Brothers’ Dilemma: They Have Malaysian Birth Certs But Are Not Malaysians

Brothers’ Dilemma: They Have Malaysian Birth Certs But Are Not Malaysians

Brothers Kow Kai Long and Kow Kai Voon’s citizenship application was rejected four times and they are now looking for help to raise legal fees.

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We’re all familiar with the plight of Malaysian mothers trying to get Malaysian citizenship for their children born abroad.

Unfortunately, they are often prevented from doing so due to our laws which state that Malaysian citizenship is automatically given if the father is a Malaysian.

However, brothers Kow Kai Long and Kow Kai Voon have Malaysian birth certificates and a Malaysian father but they are not considered Malaysians. In other words, the brothers are stateless despite having Malaysian birth certificates.

READ MORE: Malaysian Chinese With 3 Birth Certificates Lost Her Citizenship

They are now trying to raise RM40,000 in legal fees to help them obtain Malaysian citizenship after their citizenship application was rejected four times.

How did this happen?

The brothers’ citizenship predicament is largely due to their mother being Indonesian and their parents not registering their marriage.

Kai Voon was born in 1997 in Sentosa Medical Center in Kuala Lumpur while Kai Long was born in 1998 in Selayang Baru, Selangor.

Their mother left the family when Kai Long was six months old and the family has had no contact with her since.

The brothers attended school without issues and were treated as Malaysians. However, problems arose when they received a school letter in 2009 requesting them to renew their birth certificates due to a new law.

In the new birth certificates, the brothers were considered Indonesians, following their mother’s country of origin.

Image: Project I SEE

Their father immediately took them to apply for citizenship under Article 15A of the Federal Constitution on 21 October 2009, which allows citizenship registration under special circumstances for a person below the age of 21.

Their application was rejected on 11 November 2010 but they were told they could appeal a year later.

Image: Project I SEE

They applied again on 8 December 2011 but were rejected on 26 December 2012. They applied for the third time on 24 February 2013 but it was again rejected on 23 March 2015.

After failing the third time, they went to look for a lawyer who succeeded in getting someone’s citizenship approved. However, they were quoted RM120k for both brothers. Their father decided not to pursue this route since they couldn’t afford it and there was no guarantee it would work.

Before the issue could be resolved, their father passed away on 31 May 2018.

On 21 October 2018, their uncle submitted the brothers’ fourth application for citizenship under him as their guardian. After five years, their application remains pending.

What’s the current plan?

The brothers have now sought help from the law firm MahWengKwai & Associates which has a strong record of winning cases for statelessness.

As stated in Project I SEE, the plan is to file the Originating Summons and Affidavit in Support to the National Registration Department (JPN). The brothers are also advised to write to the Embassy of Indonesia to confirm they are both not Indonesian citizens.

The brothers are quoted RM30,000 excluding court appearance fees if needed. As such, they are looking to raise a total sum of RM40,000 to cover the legal fees to represent both of them.

As Kai Long explained, individuals above 21 cannot apply for citizenship under Section 15A. However, they can try applying under Section 19 which is citizenship via naturalisation.

According to JPN’s website, applicants have to reside in the country for not less than 10 years in a 12-year period, and intend to reside in Malaysia forever.

Applicants are also required to have adequate knowledge of Bahasa Melayu and be of good character.

READ MORE: “Today Is My Merdeka” 24-Year-Old Klang Man Finally Gets His Citizenship After Fighting For 13 Years

READ MORE: 91YO Sarawak Veteran Denied Malaysian Citizenship After Serving The Country

How is Malaysian citizenship determined?

There are three scenarios where a child born in Malaysia but is not considered a Malaysian citizen:

  • A non-citizen mother who has a child with a Malaysian father but did not register their marriage (similar to the case above).
  • A non-citizen mother who has a child with a Malaysian resident father but is not married.
  • Both parents are non-citizens whether they are married or not.

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