I AM writing to you, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, on behalf of two young brothers – Mohd Amirul Abdullah, 9, and Mohd Amizan Abdullah, 10. Their biological mother, whom we believe is Indonesian, had a relationship with a Malaysian man. They were not married. The mother used what we believe were fake documents to enter the country and there is no record of her with the Indonesian embassy nor can she be traced. The father is out of the picture and in jail. The boys have no legal documents to confirm their nationality and they are, on their birth certificates, registered as stateless. I have attached a copy of the boys’ birth certificate with this letter.
The boys were given to a neighbour when they were 2 and 3 years old. The neighbour took care of them for two years before giving the boys to the Welfare Department (JKM). JKM handed the boys, who were then 5 and 6 years old, to Yayasan Chow Kit and they have been with us ever since.
During the time they were with us, we tried to look for Malaysian parents who would adopt the boys. We found a couple with biological daughters of their own who were willing to take the brothers. We went through the adoption process and the couple took the boys home. However, less than a month later, the boys were returned to us. The couple felt it was too difficult to take care of the boys.
A couple of years later, through Orphancare (another civil society organisation working with JKM) we found an expat family; American-Mexican, Muslim converts, living in Malaysia. They were willing to adopt the boys. They had previously adopted a little girl with special needs from JKM, so we felt they would be suitable candidates to adopt the stateless boys.
JKM never responded to their application, so the couple took JKM to court to challenge JKM. In September last year, the court rejected their application for custody and JKM tried to take the boys away from them.
That was last year.
Since then, the couple has written to the US embassy, hired an immigration lawyer and stayed in touch with Yayasan Chow Kit as we work on persuading JKM to change their minds and allow the couple to take the boys to Texas.
Recently, JKM listed a set of requirements for the couple to adhere to. The couple will comply with the requirements but some of the requirements can’t be done without a letter of approval from JKM to take the boys to Texas and so, we find ourselves in a “chicken and egg” situation.
More worrying is the fact that there is a deadline on the US side for the couple to submit their application to adopt the boys. There is no extension. The deadline is November 24 – in two weeks’ time.
What needs to happen is for JKM to request, revoking the court papers and recommend that the couple be allowed to care for the boys and bring them to the US. The couple has submitted proof that they are Muslims and have asked an Islamic centre in Texas to provide classes for the boys until the adoption process is complete. They will submit monthly reports to JKM on the progress of the boys and JKM’s demand that proof be submitted on how the boys will be raised as good Muslims can be worked out with social workers in the States.
The boys are stateless, not Malaysians. We know very well what happens to non-Malaysian children in this country – there is little hope for getting them a good education or a family willing to adopt a 9- and 10-year-old together. They will be separated at some point when the older boy ages out of our shelter at 12 years old and will be taken back by JKM to be sent to a government home. It’s not the best option for these boys when they have this better option to be good, successful citizens, albeit elsewhere. Who will apply for their citizenship for them unless they have a guardian or fit parent, recognised by the government? How will they live here? With no formal family? If they are not allowed to be adopted by this family, then please give them citizenship so they can be productive citizens when they grow up and so their children will have an opportunity to make something of their lives.
These boys have suffered rejection after rejection through the system. I beg you to intervene and help expedite the adoption of the boys. The couple is willing to adhere to whatever requirements you set for them, but they cannot come back to Malaysia to work while waiting for approval after the customary two-year period in Muslim cases.
In the interest of time, we were wondering, given your busy schedule, if we could meet you personally to explain how dire the situation is for the boys if they were to stay here with no family and no citizenship, and how hopeful we are that, with your intervention, you could make a very big difference in these boys’ lives.
I personally need to know that I’ve tried everything to ensure the lives of these two young boys are better and that we cannot continue to harm their lives even more. It is no fault of theirs that they were born under such miserable circumstances and so, I beg you, Sir, please help them.
Thank you so much for your time and we pray for the meeting and a good outcome for the boys soon.
* Hartini Zainudin is cofounder of Yayasan Chow Kit, a civil society organisation in Kuala Lumpur that provides direct services for vulnerable children in and around the Chow Kit area as well as advocate and lobby for the rights of all children in Malaysia.