English World

Stateless woman living in Sri Lanka for 60 years may finally return to beloved M’sia

COLOMBO: After being a stateless person for 60 years in Sri Lanka, Siti Fatimah Akbar has finally seen a glimmer of hope of returning to her country of birth, with assistance from the Malaysian government.

The 72-year-old woman is thrilled that she will be able to set her foot in Malaysia, the beloved country that she left when she was 12.

“I have been a stateless person over the past 60 years, and my longing for Malaysia is just unbearable,” she told Bernama when met at the official residence of the Malaysian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Wan Zaidi Wan Abdullah, here recently.

Siti Fatimah was among a handful of Malaysians who attended a dinner in conjunction with Raja Muda of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Jamalullail’s visit, with a delegation from Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP) for the ‘Jelajah Ilmu’ programme, to Sri Lanka.

“I only lived in Malaysia for 12 years, before my late father took me to reside here.

“We left after my father finished his stint as a teacher and principal of a private school in Kuala Lumpur when the country had yet to gain independence,” said Siti Fatimah, who can still converse in Bahasa Malaysia, although she is more comfortable speaking English.

She said after becoming an adult, there was a point in her life when she thought of returning to Malaysia, but her plans came to a halt, as she did not have the relevant documents to prove her citizenship.

“I’m grateful, as the Malaysian High Commission Office here is very concerned over my plight and (they have) put so much effort into (searching for) evidence suggesting that I’m actually a Malaysian.

“Although (I was raised on) Sri Lankan food, I miss Malaysian food,” she said.

Her 47-year-old son, Ibrahim Shahood, said his mother often talks about Malaysia and really wants to return home.

“We’ve put our efforts (into realizing her wish), including looking for supporting documents to confirm that she is a Malaysian,” said Ibrahim, who works for a disaster management agency here.

He also said Siti Fatimah still has close relatives in Perak and Selangor, and they used to visit her in Colombo.

Meanwhile, Wan Zaidi said Siti Fatimah’s chances of returning to Malaysia looks promising, as all the relevant documents are now being prepared.

According to him, Siti Fatimah could return to Malaysia, as a citizen, once the documentation process is over. — BERNAMA

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