I like telling my friends about how I wasn’t a Singapore citizen until I was ten. Because they’d ask me, ‘Oh really, so where were you born?’ And I’d say ‘Singapore’. And they’d ask, ‘but how come you weren’t a citizen? What nationality were you then?’
No nationality! Stateless!, I’d say, real proud of my badge of honour.
But, but, but, you were born here.
My father was born in China and didn’t have a birth certificate. Mum was from Negri Sembilan. Dad and Mum didn’t move to Singapore till 1966, and so weren’t given the option of being citizens when independence suddenly came round. My older sister was born in 1966, but was granted citizenship for some reason (Clause 3), despite what the Constitution seemed to say (Clause 2c). So, in the family, we had Malaysian Mum, Singaporean Sis, and Stateless Dad, Brother and me.
I now know that my brother and I weren’t alone, and there are other Stateless Permanent Residents.
I remember having to travel on either my mother’s or grandmother’s Malaysian passport till I was five, and then being issued with this green booklet called a Certificate of Identity, which served as a passport.
Some time in 1979, Dad, my brother and I were granted citizenships even though Dad didn’t know enough Bahasa Melayu, our national language, to save his life (Clause 1c), and my parents applied for a shiny red passport for me, valid for 6 months at a time, just so I couldn’t just up and leave the country and not do national service.
Nowsaday, born outside Singapore also can become citizen and get red passport.