KOTA KINABALU: Having celebrated Chinese New Year in Sabah for the last 27 years, little did an expatriate from Taiwan know that the highlight of her celebration this year would be a very special gift from her adopted country.
The gift, neatly placed in a slick hardcover wrapped in an envelop, was personally delivered to her by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop, making it even more so special.
It was the Malaysian citizenship certificate she had been dreaming to have since she made Sabah her home almost three decades ago.
“For me, it is like the best Chinese New Year present I ever got. It makes the Chinese New Year this year a very special one,” said Chen Mei Ying.
The 53-year-old migrated to Sabah in 1984 after she met and married her Sabahan husband Geoffrey Goh in a university in Taiwan.
They settled down in Tawau where she began a career as a teacher, teaching Chinese language at a vernacular school there.
Her husband, also 53 and originally from Sandakan, later moved his family to Kota Kinabalu as he pursued his career in business.
Now with two children aged 18 and 21, Chen who throughout her stay in Sabah had contributed as a private higher education institute lecturer, is still a dedicated educationist although she is now only focusing on teaching primary students in order to spend more time with her family.
“I applied for citizenship in 2006. Back then, such application took a very long time before any decision can be given.
“I was told to come back after five years. That is why I never expected to get the certificate now because there is still a few months before it’s five years,” she said delightedly.
According to Chen, the good news came as a shocking surprise as the National Registration Department’s officer contacted her and informed that her certificate was ready and will be delivered by the deputy minister a few days after Chinese New Year.
Eager to use her newly given citizenship, Chen said she would celebrate it by taking her family for a holiday.
“I can’t wait to use my Malaysian passport to travel. I am very excited that I am now a Malaysian,” she said.
Chen who now resides in Yakin Jaya, Likas was among five lucky applicants whose citizenship certificates were delivered personally by the deputy minister yesterday.
The four others were Leong Yit Moi, Ibelita Bahil, Ong Toon Kee and Putri Mangga.
Speaking to reporters when met at Chen’s home, Abu Seman said more than 17,000 applications for citizenship, mostly from expatriates from Asian countries, were received by Malaysia last year.
Out of this figure, a total of 1,286 were received in Sabah.
“Last year, a total of 659 eligible applications received their citizenship certificates in Sabah. Nationwide, we have processed some 10,000 applications and notified the individuals on the result of their applications,” he said, adding that not all of the processed applications were granted citizenship.
An applicant must have a Permanent Resident status and have stayed in Malaysia for at least 12 years in order to be given Malaysian citizenship.
Beginning 2009, the government introduced a new performance marker which requires the related agencies to have citizenship application processed and approved within two years from the date the application was received.
However, the Home Ministry had taken the initiative to ensure that all applications are approved in one year, as long as all requirements are met and necessary documents are completed by the applicant.