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Monday, June 29, 2015

Bidding farewell to Malaysia

Between 30 and 50 applications to renounce Malaysian citizenship are received a day at the Malaysian High Commission in Jervois Road, Singapore. – kln.gov.my pic, June 30, 2015.Between 30 and 50 applications to renounce Malaysian citizenship are received a day at the Malaysian High Commission in Jervois Road, Singapore. – kln.gov.my pic, June 30, 2015.
Things can get busy on weekday mornings at the guardhouse outside the regal building of the Malaysian High Commission in Singapore at Jervois Road, as a string of Malaysians come to  renew their passports, announce their permanent resident (PR) status and renounce their Malaysian citizenship.
Between 30 and 50 applications to renounce Malaysian citizenship are received a day in Singapore, dropped off in a special box for documents of this nature, one of the guards on duty told The Malaysian Insider there recently.
Submission of renunciation applications is from 8.15am to 11am from Mondays to Fridays, but those who come to drop their documents off have often been turned away by 9.30am and told to return the next day.
 The day's quota has already been filled, they are told.
It's a telling sign about the number of people who are keen to give up their identities as Malaysians, although there are no official statistics available on the number of Malaysians who renounce their citizenship in the island republic.
There are more than one million Malaysians said to be residing abroad as expatriates, as PRs and as citizens of their chosen countries. 
But official numbers of Malaysians who have renounced their citizenship are hard to come by.
In Singapore, the number of Malaysians becoming citizens had been on an upward trend between 2004 and 2008.
There was a dip in 2009 for a spell and an increase in 2012. That year, 20,693 citizenships were awarded to new residents.
The dip in 2009 was "mirrored in the annual uptake of permanent residency, which more than doubled from 36,900 in 2004 to 79,167 in 2008 but suffered a decrease to 59,460 in 2009.
Population statistics as at December 2011 put the number of people in the republic at 3.81 million, of whom 3.27 are citizens and 0.54 million permanent residents.
"Sharper declines were recorded for both citizenship and permanent residency in 2010, ahead of the May 2011 general election,” according to data available at the Migration Policy Institute.
The country also had a non-resident population of 1.46 million who are working, studying or living in Singapore on a non-permanent basis.
New lives
For two former Malaysians who are now Singaporeans, the choice to surrender the citizenship of their birth country was made for a better life, on their terms.
Friends Daphne Lim and Saranee Joseph (not their real names to protect their children's interests) became Singaporeans recently.
Lim, a single mother in her 40s, said the idea of renouncing her Malaysian citizenship was not foreign. She had grown up being told that as a Chinese, she was not welcome in the country.
Treading a path familiar to many Chinese Malaysians, Lim furthered her studies in Australia, returned to Malaysia with a degree, married and followed her spouse to Singapore.
They applied for PR status, but after a while, she decided to become a citizen upon seeing the benefits accorded to Singapore citizens. She said her children have benefited from her decision and life for her in Singapore was never dull. The buzz of the city invigorated her and she was glad to be rid of the political negativity in Malaysia.
“It was never an issue for me. I knew that one day, I would no longer be Malaysian,” she said.
Lim admitted she had a great childhood in Malaysia, but the contentment she has now as an adult surpassed the memories. The opportunities and benefits she and her children have “are good. You can’t get them in Malaysia!”
Joseph, meanwhile, became a citizen after her having a child. She had already been working in Singapore as a consultant, and upon becoming a mother, felt she had to think of her child's future.
If before she harboured thoughts of retiring in Malaysia, the child’s presence has forced her to assess their lives.
Having a Malaysian citizenship in Singapore would only court confusion for her daughter, Joseph said. Since she was born and brought up there, it would just be easier to be a Singaporean, she said.
The experiences of former classmates also had an impact, Joseph said, noting that a few had become bitter at not being able to fulfil their potential in Malaysia.
“The bitterness they displayed was not something I wanted for myself,” she said, adding that she felt lucky to have found work in Singapore and to settle down here.
What Lim and Joseph both remember about their lives in Malaysia was the absence of race and religious tension. It was a carefree time for them, but one which no longer seems to exist.
Lim said Singapore was safe to the point that she allowed her children to take the MRT by themselves at night.
Joseph said "Singapore can be restrictive politically… but the pros outweigh the cons.”
It's also the way the city and its infrastructure are planned. Singapore is a green oasis, they said, unlike Malaysia which is facing indiscriminate development and deforestation.
Farewell
Back at the Malaysian High Commission's stately building, would-be Singaporeans come to submit their documents with bittersweet feelings.
The documents required are the forms “K” and “MY-RN1”, and with these forms, other documents such as identity cards, birth certificate, a letter of approval from the Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and  Malaysian passport.
The two forms are straightforward – the applicant only needs to state all his particulars, but not the reason for renunciation.
To renounce Malaysian citizenship, the applicant must be 21 years of age and above. He may have been a PR, or may have already decided that he wants to be a Singaporean from the onset.
As one drops in the documents into the box, the soft thud is a reminder of the finality of it all: he is no longer Malaysian.
- TMI

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