By Arul John
HIS mother blames herself for being forgetful. And the result of her forgetfulness is that her son now has no country to call his own.
Mr Vadiveloo Rajamuthi was born in Malaysia, but has lived in Singapore since he was 3.
He claims he did not know he had to take an oath of renunciation, allegiance and loyalty after turning 21 if he wanted to remain a Singapore citizen.
His mother, Madam Karuppayee Arumugam, got a written reminder, but forgot to tell him about it.
That lapse caused Mr Vadiveloo to lose his Singapore citizenship in 2003 and he is now stateless.
Mr Vadiveloo, who does odd jobs, now lives here with a Special Pass from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), which is renewed annually.
Two appeals to ICA for citizenship or permanent residence were unsuccessful, and his family now hopes an appeal to the Ministry of Home Affairs will help.
Mr Vadiveloo was born in Johor Baru on 24 Jan 1976, and was registered as a Singapore citizen in 1980.
His father, a Singaporean, was working in Johor at the time of his birth. Mr Vadiveloo's elder brother, MrMurugan, 34, was born in Singapore and is a Singapore citizen.
In 1979, the family moved back to Singapore.
Mr Vadiveloo said he got a Singapore IC when he turned 16 and it was a pink one.
After finishing his National Service in 1996, he worked at various jobs. He last worked full-time as a security guard for a firm near Jurong Island.
Madam Karuppayee, 58, said that in 1997, she received a registered letter at the three-room HDB flat she and Mr Vadiveloo share near Balestier Road.
She said: 'I signed for the letter but did not know what it was for. A relative later told me that it was from the Immigration Department and was for Vadiveloo.
'My son was working near Jurong Island and did not come home every day. When he came home, I forgot to tell him about the letter as I was not well at the time.'
ICA practice is to send a second reminder if no action is taken after the first letter (see report at right), but mother and son claim they did not receive any other letters from ICA.
Information about the need to take the oath is also written on Mr Vadiveloo's citizenship certificate, but he said he never read it thoroughly.
Between 23 Jun 1998 and 26 Apr 2003, Mr Vadiveloo was in jail for robbery. During that time, Madam Karuppayee said, ICA called her and told her that Mr Vadiveloo had not taken his oath, despite it having sent a letter to her home informing him of the need to do so.
No longer citizen
Madam Karuppayee claims that she told the officer that she did not give the letter to him then and he was now in jail.
After Mr Vadiveloo was released from jail, he was shocked to be given a special pass instead of his pink NRIC.
He said: 'The ICA officers said I was no longer a Singapore citizen because I did not take the oath. When employers see my pass, they don't want to hire me because they do not know my citizenship.
'I cannot easily travel because of the restrictions of the pass.'
As he cannot hold down a regular job, Mr Vadiveloo and his family have relied on their savings as well as financial help from friends and colleagues.
Madam Karuppayee approached Jalan Besar MP Heng Chee How twice to appeal to ICA to reinstate her son's Singapore citizenship but both appeals were unsuccessful.
Mr Vadiveloo said: 'Five years have passed since my jail term and I have since had a clean record. I have served my NS and done the punishment for my crime.
'Why can't ICA return my Singapore citizenship to me?'
Madam Karuppayee said: 'If I had given my son the letter earlier, he would have known what to do and all these problems would not have happened.'
She has also approached lawyer A P Thirumurthy for help.
The lawyer has sent an appeal letter to the Home Affairs Ministry to re-consider Mr Vadiveloo's case.
The Ministry and ICA are looking into the case.
Two reminders sent: ICA
ON 12 Mar 2004, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee told Parliament that Singapore had 2,800 stateless people at that time - 95 per cent of whom had been given Singapore permanent residency.
The Straits Times reported that between 1999 and 2004, 730 stateless persons became Singapore citizens.
An ICA spokesman said they do not comment on individual cases.
But according to ICA, when a minor is granted Singapore citizenship by registration, he and his parents are informed of the need for the minor to take the oath of renunciation, allegiance and loyalty between the ages of 21 and 22.
An ICA spokesman said this information is also printed on the minor's Singapore citizenship certificate.
She said ICA would also send two reminder letters to the person on the need to take the oath - first when he or she turns 21 and again six months later.
For minors who are overseas during this time, the spokesman said ICA would direct the reminder letters to their overseas addresses if ICA has that information, and they could take the oath at the overseas Singapore missions.
She said the minors would cease to be Singapore citizens if they did not take the oath before their 22nd birthday.
Since 2004, children born to Singapore citizens abroad are automatically granted Singapore citizenship. Previously, they could become Singapore citizens only through registration.
Under the Constitution, the Government can revoke a person's Singapore citizenship if he or she is 18 or older and:
# has voluntarily claimed and exercised rights belonging to foreign nationals
# has applied for or used a foreign passport
# has not returned to Singapore over a continuous period of 10 years
# and in the case of Singapore citizenship by registration, was disloyal to Singapore or obtained such citizenship by fraud or mistake.
Lawyer M P Rai said stateless people cannot enjoy perks like subsidised public housing and government grants.
He added that they will have difficulty applying to local schools, and have to apply for special travel documents on a case-by-case basis.
WAYS YOU COULD LOSE YOUR CITIZENSHIP
1 Those who hide past criminal records when applying for citizenship.
2 Someone who is considered to be a security threat.
3 Those whose birth or citizenship status was not registered by their parents or guardians.
4 A child born to a parent or parents who are foreigners and not legally married at the time.
5 A person born in Singapore who uses travel documents under a different nationality.
6 A person whose citizenship the government cannot establish from its database, and who has no documents to prove it.
This story was first published in The News Paper on Dec 3, 2008.