Citizenship news lifts spirits of stateless PRs

A Certificate of Identity and a red-coloured Identification Card are the documents issued to stateless individuals who are PRs in Brunei. Picture: BT/Ubaidillah Masli

BRUNEI-born stateless permanent residents (PR) possessing International Certificate of Identity (ICI) had nothing but words of appreciation to His Majesty and the Brunei Government, following yesterday's announcement of a plan to expedite the process of granting citizenship to them.

Many, after nursing disappointments in failing to obtain Brunei citizenship for years, are seen to be readying their documents to re-apply.

Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Othman in a speech on Monday said that expediting the citizenship process would apply to those PRs who are stateless or do not have citizenship status.

Brunei-born stateless PR Azhani Abu Daniel, a private sector employee and mother of two, said she was thankful to His Majesty for the good news.

"I am holding an ICI, was born in Brunei and have been living here all my life. This (announcement) is very good to recognise that PRs have a right of abode in the country, and I thank His Majesty for considering us as people who have the right to stay here," she said, adding it was a "positive sign".

Meanwhile, Azhani said she hoped the process of obtaining citizenship for Bruneian-born stateless PRs would be easier.

"As there are different levels in classifying PRs as to whether they were born here or not, I think those who were born here should be treated a little bit differently, where perhaps the citizenship exams will be less strenuous or that getting the citizenship will have different criteria," she said.

Azhani also suggested there be ways enjoin to help other countries recognise stateless PRs travelling with ICIs in the meantime.

Stateless individuals are not eligible to obtain a passport. Some stateless individuals from Brunei are often inconvenienced when going through immigration overseas as the ICI is not easily accepted as substitute for a passport.

Josephine Yapp, 28, a duty manager at The Empire Hotel & Country Club, said: "I would really like to say to His Majesty and the Royal Family many thanks, not forgetting the ministers who (will) also be putting effort in expediting the process for all stateless people here," she said.

It was a "privilege" for all stateless residents to hear of the news, Yapp said.

"At least we have hope to stay here and be citizens of Brunei." The 28-year-old, who was born in 1982 and applied for citizenship two years ago, said she hoped the system would soon be implemented and that it would be continually carried out.

Muhd Izzuddin Abdullah, 29, said he was very thankful to His Majesty. "Syukur Alhamdullilah, this is good news. I have been applying for citizenship since 1998, and I did not receive an answer so I gave up. But now I will definitely re-apply," he said. "It would be easier for me (if I get) citizenship as I am a teacher so I can teach in public schools. I would be so happy if I would officially be known as a Bruneian," Muhd Izzuddin said.

Another stateless PR, who asked to be known as Tan, welcomed the announcement.

Tan, an ethnic Belait, said his other five siblings are all Bruneian citizens except for him, due to a change in citizenship policies in the late 1960s.

"During that time, the policy changed and children were no longer allowed to follow their mother's citizenship, and it affected my application," said Tan, who works as a project coordinator in the oil fields.

Tan's late mother is a Puak Belait, an indigenous Belait resident who lived in Kuala Belait all her life.

Tan missed his citizenship examination two years ago due to work commitments, and now he is readying his documents to re-apply. "When I finish my current project in March or April, I will send in my application," he said. Additional reporting from Chua Guan Cheong The Brunei Times

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