Singaporean or Not Singaporean? That is the Question..
By Ogawa Ryuju
When i was told that i am no longer a Singaporean citizen, i was appalled that such complications can happen to someone who has served the nation in national service and has been living IN Singapore for more than 15 years, i know that some of you might be thinking, "what do you mean no longer a Singaporean?", well let me start my story from the very interesting beginning.
My name says it all. As you can see, I'm not what you might call an average Singaporean, it all started when my mother, a Singaporean, wishing to seek more experience for herself travelled to japan 30 over years ago to open up a pub called "Singapore", where she met my father. Wishing to bear a child, as ludicrous as it may sound, an agreement was made between them to have me with a branded watch as a reward for my father, well that sums up what an independent spirit my mother is. We went along fine for about 2 years, and as my mom runs her pub, my dad would step in as a caretaker at home. An incident occured when my dad and his friends left me at home and left the door ajar, i guess being a curious 2 year old child i decided to explore the beautiful outside world of Japan, and being 2 years old, being lost when you're alone is bound to be a part of the equation, so as i roam the world looking for my mother, a stranger (a regular of my mother's "Singapore") recognizes me and brought me to "Singapore"! (according to my mom, i kept repeating the word "Singapore" so it was pretty lucky he didn't send me to the airport!). Seeing me in a strangers arm angered my already strong willed mother and an argument was sparked between my mom and dad. Begrudgingly, we packed our bags and left Japan and came back to Singapore so that i can be closer to my familly here, the Japanese “Singapore” was still around, and god love my mother for her sacrifices as she painstakingly travelled between this 2 great nations for her job and her child, and this went on for about 3 years.
Wanting a paternal role model for me, my mom finally thought that we had found the perfect person to join our interesting family while she was in Japan and decided to settle down with then my stepfather. “Singapore” in Japan served its last drink, and our family was finally complete as they move to Singapore to start a fresh new life here with me, 2 years went on as we live our life happily. But things took a turn when my stepdad parents wanted us to move in with them in Japan, once again our suitcases was called for duty as we packed for Japan, I had just completed my primary 1 education here when we left.
Things did not turn out to be as happily ever after as we had hoped it to be. Though it seemed like we finally had our complete family, most of the time, my mom and i was an outsider looking in, being a “Step” grandchild wasn't easy, especially with a conservative “Step” grandparents to work with, the biased treatment that my mom and i received from our Japanese attached family was blatant, we had average meals while my stepdad dine with luxury, and i was confined to the house while other kids my age was playing outside. I repeated my primary 1 education in Japan, and things in school was just as bad, being “UnJapanese”, i was constantly bullied and taunted by my classmate for being different. Push comes to shove, my mom had enough and finally stood her ground and left my stepdad, and our loyal suitcases was once again called to move on to Singapore.
So, at the age of 10, with a third grade Japanese education, and no understanding of written english, I was enrolled back to school here in primary 2, and as you might guessed it, school life wasn't all peaches here either, not only was i older than everyone else in class, i was still considered an outsider due to my paternal heritage, so the taunting and bullying continues here, but school and life in general goes on, not without difficulty, but we persevered as a family, and though it was tough, my mom and i had a blast, just the 2 of us.
My mom applied for a 3 room HDB flat, and to support our little family, my mom drove a taxi for a living, at times with me alongside her (the suprised look of her passengers faces when they saw a mini assistant to the driver still puts a smile on my face when i think back!), and this went on for a couple of years, and because of her love for children, my mom trained herself how to twists balloon and do face painting so that she can start something of her own here, in the year 2000, she started her own balloon entertainment company called BalloonArts, and things were good, in 2007, although i only finished my N'Levels education, being older than my schoolmate, the call of duty to serve the nation comes, and i went through what most of our male Singaporeans do, Natoinal Service, being half Japanese and serving the army got the attention of the press, that it was even published in a local newspaper!, it was one of my proudest moments as a Singaporean, next to being on stage and shaking hands with a Member of Parliament Mr. Heng Chee How As i took my oath and received my Pink IC on stage at an acceptence ceremony, I remember proudly thinking to myself, finally, this is home, and i belong here, i decided to renounce my Japanese citizenship at the age of 21, and be a full pledge Singapore citizen, for there's no other place that i would call Home.
Things when on fine for a few years, until recently, when i went to the ICA to renew my Passport, i was informed that I was no longer a Singaporean, because i did not take my pledge, and that i could no longer stay here in Singapore, i felt betrayed, unjustified, and most of all, i felt lost, i finally have the chance to take over my mothers company so she can retire, and i finally can move on with my life when all of it is taken away from me, i am now stuck with a dilemma with no obvious solution, i can't go back to Japan for i had renounce my citizenship there for Singapore, but i can't stay or do anything here because officially, I'm not a Singapore citizen, and unfortunately, i can't go anywhere else because i do not own a passport anymore. In hopes to settle this predicament, i went to my local MP, Mr. Lee Boon Yang, to see if he could help me with this issue. Though with his good graces, Mr. Lee help me send a request to reinstate my citizenship, it was rejected due to a no provision law, not wanting to give up, i went to seek the help of another MP, 1 that had shooked my hands as i received my NRIC Mr. Heng, and as my status as a Singaporean lingers as the unknown, i hope that i can settle this issue as soon as possible.
Not Local, Not Foreign, i wonder what my outcome would be.
"We, the citizen of Singapore"
My pledge was not taken because i got confused by an inaccurate information given to me on my Citizenship. I took my first pledge from the SAF when i was enlisted into the Army, My second pledge was taken when i received my Pink IC from the MP for Jalan Besar GRC, Mr Heng Chee How during the Citizenship Ceremony on the 20th June 2008.
And as for the inaccurate information I have mentioned earlier, this was how it went:
11 Jan 2010,
I needed to travel overseas but my passport had expired, so i went down to the ICA(Passport @ 2nd Level) to renew my passport. I was told that i am not able to renew my passport until i have renounced in the Oath-Taking ceremony in regards to my Japanese citizenship before the age of 22. (I did managed to get my passport extended for a month after I questioned the ICA staff, "I need my passport to travel back to Japan to renounce my citizenship, don't I?" however I did not make it to Japan because the trip is too expensive in such a short notice.)
15 July 2010,
I renounced my Japanese citizenship at the Embassy of Japan(in Singapore), the Embassy gave me a letter stating that Ihave renounced my citizenship but it is under currently under process. From a normal human being's point of view, If you are told to renounce your citizenship, the word 'process' does not mean 'completed'. So i waited for Embassy of Japan to send me a letter to confirm that the renouncement of my Citizenship in Japan has been completed however, as of today, I have not received any notice.
4th Oct 2010,
I promised a friend to travel to Hong Kong to catch LUNA SEA's live concert. We bought the tickets to the concert and I made my way down to the ICA(Passport @ 2nd Level) again to renew my passport with the 'Renounce in Process' letter. They referred me to the 6th level as they claimed this is not within their scope. I proceeded to the 6th Level and showed them the letter. This was when they told me that I am no longer a singaporean because i did not take the Oath Taking and i was already 22 years old. They also mentioned that i could have taken my pledge with the 'Process' Letter which i was not informed of at all earlier.
I explained to the officer that i have not received any letter from the ICA regarding the Oath Taking. Tthe only letter I have received was on the Oath Taking during the Citizenship Ceremony with Mr Heng Chee How. They claimed that they have sent two reminders about my Oath Taking; first reminder was on 31 August 2009 which was my 21st Birthday (however, I did not receive any) and the second reminder was six months after my 21st birthday via a postman as a registered mail, which I believed no one was home during that point of time and the postman supposedly left a note for me to collect the mail at the Post Office however I never received this note. They also informed me that the second reminder was bounced back to the ICA and they showed it to me with a statement written 'Unclaimed'.
I explained to them that i was given inaccurate information from the Officer i spoke to at the Passport Section @2nd Level, they responded saying that they are a different Section and I should have gone up to the 6th Level to obtain correct information. I felt very unjustified as they ceased my Singapore citizenship after all the effort I went through to renounce my Japanese citizenship and despite my truthful explanation, they are nonchalant towards the fact that the ICA Passport Section was the one that gave me incorrect information. If I had received clear and accurate information in the first place, my pledge would have been taken promptly and I would not have become stateless as I am now.
If anybody is reading this, please leave a comment and share with me how do you feel about this?