He's tickled pink to get IC

By Marie Lim

FOR Mr Ogawa Ryuju, the past six months have been a roller-coaster ride.

He had gone from being a citizen of two countries to being a statelessman. And now, he is a Singaporean again.

On Nov 6 last year, The New Paper ran a report about Mr Ogawa, 22, who had enlisted for national service in 2007 and received his pink identity card (IC) and his Singapore citizenship when he was 19, in June 2008.

He completed his national service in June 2009, but found out in October last year that his citizenship had lapsed because he did not take an oath of allegiance before he turned 22.

He reapplied for citizenship on Dec 1 and his application was eventually approved on Feb 28 after he paid a $100 processing fee. Last Friday, we met Mr Ogawa at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) Building at Kallang Road when he was there to collect his identity card.

It was the first day that his card would be ready for collection, and he turned up early, at around 9am.

"I'm really excited that I'm getting my IC back," he said.

On March 11, he had recited the national pledge as a new citizen before the Commissioner of Oaths in a solemn 10-minute procedure at the same building.

Holding up his pink IC after the collection, the Japan-born, bred-in-Singapore young man told TNP with a sigh of relief: "Now, it feels more official."

Mr Ogawa has been living with his Singaporean mother, Ms Chan Mee Lee, 54, in Singapore since he was 10. Ms Chan, who is the owner of a balloon sculpture and face-painting business, is divorced from Mr Ogawa's Japanese father, who lives and works in Japan.

She was very happy that her son is now a Singapore citizen.

She said: "It has been a big headache, running around not knowing what to do. I'm just happy that it's all behind us now. We can finally get on with our lives."

Mr Ogawa, an events planner, had approached the press as well as MPs Lee Boon Yang and Heng Chee How for help. He said he had to deal with a lot of criticism on public forums when his problem was first reported in the press.

He said: "Some people said I didn't deserve the citizenship and that I should return to Japan. During that period, my friends...provided me with the mental strength to go on."

The friendship that lasted through tough times reconfirmed that his decision to stay was the right one.

He said: "I chose to be a Singaporean mainly because of my mother, my education - I'm more fluent in English than Japanese - and my friends."

Support from friends

While all is well for him now in Singapore, the turmoil in Japan due to the recent earthquake and tsunami weighs heavily on his mind - especially since his father works in the media industry in Chiba Ken, a coastal prefecture east of Tokyo.

Said Mr Ogawa: "I couldn't contact him the first few days but I just kept trying. I got him on the fourth day. I was very worried. I kept imagining the worst. I was regretting it, thinking that I should have gone back to Japan."

He had planned to go to Japan at the end of last year, but that trip was cancelled due to his citizenship woes. Mr Ogawa is now planning a trip to Japan in June or August.

"I hope to celebrate my birthday in Japan with my father...I haven't celebrated it with him since my 10th birthday."

But first, he has to apply for a passport.

"I got my citizenship back, but not my passport," he said with a laugh.

This article was first published in The New Paper.