Years-long wait for Malaysian identity

The family fell into this predicament when Rathna applied to register her daughter’s birth in Melbourne with the Malaysian authorities.


No way back: Rathna with her husband and children at their home in Melbourne.

June 12, 2023

SEREMBAN – Five years ago, Rathna Devy Muttaya left her young family behind to further her studies in Australia, hoping that the extra knowledge would help her expand her two food businesses.

But problems with registering her daughter’s birth with the Malaysian authorities has scuttled these plans and turned the family’s life upside down.

Instead of expanding her businesses, the family sold them at a loss and her husband and two sons, aged 10 and seven, had to uproot their lives and move to Melbourne, Australia.

The family is in this predicament due to the problems Rathna, 45, faced when she applied to register her daughter’s birth in Melbourne with the Malaysian authorities.

Rathna left for Melbourne in 2018 but found out later in the year that she was pregnant.

As she was unable to return to Malaysia due to her studies, Rathna gave birth to her daughter in July 2019 in Melbourne and a month later, applied to have the child registered with the Malaysian authorities.

Rathna, who completed her studies in March 2020, claimed that before she delivered her daughter, she had called the Malaysian mission in Melbourne to check on the procedures to register her birth.

“I could not fly back (to give birth) as I had some medical complications and had to go for weekly check-ups. There was also the thesis and programme that I had to complete,” she said.

Even though Rathna’s daughter will be turning four soon, the infant still does not have Malaysian identity documents despite the fact that her mother applied for them four years ago.

“My daughter is now considered stateless as she doesn’t have any identification documents,” Rathna told The Star.

As the child does not have identification documents, her parents cannot apply for a passport.

“My husband and sons have also been forced to move to Melbourne because we are not able to bring my daughter back to Malaysia as she cannot travel without a passport,” she added.

In their latest letter on May 11, 2023, the Home Ministry told Rathna that her daughter’s citizenship application was still being processed.

“I flew back a few weeks ago and went to Putrajaya to sort this out again because my Australian visa is going to expire soon. But I got the same answer, application under process,” she said.

“The entire episode has been emotionally exhausting. Our expenses are high in Australia.

“I appeal to the authorities to understand my predicament as this has been taking a toll on my family,” she added.

Malaysian Public Service Society president Andrew Raju, who accompanied Rathna to Putrajaya, said he was perplexed by her case.

“Since she did register her daughter’s birth in Melbourne, it makes no sense why the authorities are still processing her application,” he said.

When contacted, a Home Ministry official confirmed that Rathna’s application is still being processed.

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