Citizenship applicants: All we need is a yes or a no

National 4 minutes, 16 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

PERMANENT residents in Brunei said the least authorities could do to people seeking citizenship was to give a definitive answer on their application status and not continue to leave them in the dark years after taking the citizenship test.

The Brunei Times sought the reactions of a few permanent residents on the remarks last Thursday of the home affairs minister who said it would be “very difficult” to set a timeline for the processing of a Brunei citizenship application because it depends on several considerations set out under existing laws.

At the meeting of the 12th Session of the Legislative Council, Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong did not elaborate on what those considerations were.

One of the permanent residents who took the citizenship test in 2013 said the wait has caused her a lot of anxiety.

“After taking the exam in 2013, we have yet to hear anything from the Department of Immigration and National Registration on the status of our application or even the result of our exams,” said the woman who declined to be named for fear of repercussions.

“I repeatedly went to the Immigration and National Registration Department building (to enquire) but every single time they would just ask me to write down my name and phone number in a book, and that they would call me if there is any news but they never did in the last three years,” said the woman in her 20s.

She was even advised by immigration officers to abandon her efforts and start from scratch again.

“The last time I went there, the lady at the front desk told me that it would be better for me to stop trying and re-apply for the citizenship examination as there was nothing I could do (and this) left me exasperated,” she said.

“I would rather be told outright that we would not be given citizenship rather than have this issue hanging over our heads for years as this concerns our lives and our future,” she added.

She said it was important for her to officially belong to the country as it would allow her to secure her future.

“I was born and raised in Brunei and my parents, who I would be taking care of in their retirement, are getting old and have no plans of moving as it is hard to uproot their entire lives and start over in another country at that age. So where else can I go?” she said.

“If I am not a citizen, I am not allowed to legally own property in Brunei.”

According to Chapter 15 of the Brunei Nationality Act 1961, a person residing in Brunei would be eligible for registration as a Bruneian national if the person has satisfied five conditions.

The conditions are: the person has a proficient knowledge of the Malay language, able to speak it proficiently, has been examined by a Language Board on the Malay language, is of good character and has taken the oath of allegiance.

Meanwhile, a stateless permanent resident said he has also yet to hear from the authorities on his citizenship application status.

The permanent resident, who did not want to be named, said it was important to be officially recognised as a Bruneian so that he could legally own the land that his family has been residing on since he was young.

“My parents bought the house that I have stayed in for nearly two decades but the land on which it is built is still not legally owned by them even though they paid for it entirely by themselves.

“How can one pay for a property but not own it? So I hope to be able to legally transfer the ownership of our own house to our family if I was granted citizenship but at this point, I have lost hope in that ever happening,” added the recent graduate.

Another permanent resident who took the exam three years ago said he could not understand why the authorities would not come up with an explanation.

“I have waited for three years now for any updates since being told that I had passed my citizenship exam but the longer I wait, the more I feel that I will not be granted citizenship even though my family has been Bruneian residents for three generations,” said the stateless man.

He hopes that there would be definite guidelines governing the grants of citizenship in the future so that he would at least be safe in the knowledge that he will or will not be given a citizenship.

“All applicants have complied with all the criteria set out to us and have spent a lot of money taking the citizenship test but there is always a new excuse or condition to stop us from getting the citizenship.

“I would rather know right from the beginning if there is any chance of me being granted citizenship so that I would not waste my time and money as well as that of the government officers in an ultimately futile exercise,” he added.

The Brunei Times