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Open Letter to the Prime Minister from a Stateless Child

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By Hartini Zainudin

My name is Zara Hana Abdullah. I know this is my name because this is what Mummy says it is and everyone who knows me and loves me says this is my name. My Aunty Shireen named me Zara and my Aunty Sian named me Hana and told me what the 2 names mean- Zara is ‘Princess’ and Hana means Grace…so i’m actually Princess Grace, which makes my Oma very happy because she loves all those Grace Kelly movies.

But according to Malaysian law, I do not exist legally because I have no birth certificate. Every child is entitled to a birth certificate, so that we know they have a name and some information about them. Mummy says the reason why I don’t have one is because in the application form for a birth certificate, there is a box that says, “if you don’t have proof of the child’s birth, then there must be 2 witnesses who was there at the time of birth. I don’t have 2 witnesses since Mummy found me at 2 and a half months old. So now, she cannot fill out the birth certificate. Welfare officers say they’ll help Mummy fill out the application, but that was last year. I know the Welfare Department cannot do everything, so Mummy nags them once a week and now she tells me they run when they see her or do not pick up the phone. But I know Mummy will catch them and make them file the application for me.

I know I’m 3 years old because that it is what the Aunty told my mummy – the one who gave me to Mummy? I also know I’m 3 years old because Mummy took me to the doctor and the doctor said that’s most probably how old I am. And Aunty said, I was born on the 18th of February so that’s when I celebrate my birthday!

When I get my birth certificate, Mummy says that my name cannot be Zara Hana Abdullah because I’m Muslim and I don’t know who my real daddy is so my name must be Zara Hana Binte Abdullah to show that I am the daughter (Binte) of Abdullah (God- one of 99 names for Allah) which also means that I am a child ‘born out of wedlock’.

Because Mummy and I had to go to court, to finalize my adoption, my birth certificate will be exchanged for a certificate of adoption, which looks like a birth cert except for a clause that says I’m adopted. I’m okay with that as my legal paper. But there may be problems when I apply for a passport, open a bank statement, apply to university, try to get a visa abroad…is this true, Mr, Prime Minister?

Mummy says too that I am not Malaysian. That I have no citizenship – I am stateless, which means I don’t belong to any country and Malaysia does not want me if Mummy doesn’t fight for me or you don’t pass the law to say it’s okay for Mummy to give me her citizenship?

May I please belong to a country?

Without a country, I cannot go to school, I cannot get a passport, I cannot go to university, leave the country, travel, get married, or really know what i”ll be able to be when I grow up because I have no future! No future like my brother or my cousins?

Mummy says that under Muslim law, she is just my Guardian, not my adopted parent and it will be more difficult for her to apply for me to get citizenship. Is this true? If it’s possible, can you please tell me how long it will take? In days please? I can’t count months and years yet!

Mummy was very angry yesterday after her meeting because she said some grown up officer said that I am one of ‘those’ children – a foreigner that does not deserve the same rights and protection as a Malaysian. How does she know I’m not Malaysian and not a foreigner? If you’re not sure, wouldn’t you assume that I just am so I have a brighter future?

Another grown up said that I am a threat to national security because there are so many of us. I’m quite sure if someone gave me away and it’s now been 3 years, no one is going to come back and claim me! So, I’m really no threat! Just give me PR status please, till you investigate more but let me go to school with my brother and cousins.

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