Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Tyranny of Immigration

Am so very sad. Just heard that Sharanya is leaving the country and for good. It will be Malaysia's loss as she is undoubtedly among the best young writers we have here and that at the beginning of her career.

Sharanya holds an Indian passport, but has lived here for much of her life, studying at secondary school and college. Her partner is Malaysian.

She became one of the most prominent performance poets on the literary scene. Her work's been published. When British Council was looking for a local writer to grace an official conference dinner, she's the one they chose. And she has always called herself a Malaysian writer.

(Correction added later - she contacted me to say that she thinks of herself first and foremost as an Indian writer ... I guess that because we have taken her to our hearts that we see her under the umbrella of Malaysian writer.)

But such are the ways of immigration. You can't simply want to be part of a country. Bureaucracy has to sanction it. And it doesn't matter if you have something important to offer the country or not.

(I sympathise with this as I have had my own problems with immigration over the years. My application for PR presumably sits at the bottom of a dusty pile, and I want it actually for no more than the symbolic acknowledgment that I have, through marriage and over twenty years of teaching and training teachers here, become part of things.)

I know Sharanya has been deeply worried about her immigration status since her course has ended, and that she sees her forced departure as a relief in some ways, since she says that
... the strain, stress, pain and inertia were playing havoc on my peace of mind and relationship ...
She hopes that by the middle of next year she will have settled somewhere else, probably Singapore.

I wish there was some way we could appeal, some rope we could pull, but I fear there isn't.

(Photo taken during the KL Litfest by Shahril Nizam.)


YTSL said...

Sharon -- you and Sharanya have my sympathy. Make that empathy. I know how it feels like to wish to have residency status in a territory one has grown to love but whose bureaucracy is unaware -- and uncaring -- of the fact.

Poppadumdum said...

You have my sympathy too. And what irks is how easy so many illegal immigrants get PR!!!

Jordan said...

Sharon, your case is precisely why I haven't even bothered applying for PR yet. Heard so many stories, people who've been here way longer than I have. If being married to a Malaysian, speaking the language, and making a contribution (and a commitment)to this country for so long aren't enough reasons to give you PR, then I don't know how I would get it, what with my five short years here (one of which was spent mostly in China). Sad.

bibliobibuli said...

jordan - i sort of messed up my case too. when i came back here as a wife in 1990 i was offered work by the british council who then automatically got me a work permit. when i later worked for a british college i applied for a professional visit pass like my british colleagues.

later, when i applied for PR i was told that these years of residence (plus the ones i'd worked before i married) didn't count. i had in fact been wrongly advised all along by immigration. (though at that time without the work permit and professional visit pass i couldn't have worked!!!!)

another problem was that when we married overseas, abu didn't know that he had to register the marriage with the malaysian high comm. we learned after we came back that while we were legally married, we had to get married again in malaysia for it to count ... so eventually we went to the registry office in pj.

it's all so complicated, so frustrating, so bewildering. luckily now at least i know where i stand.

the PR is mostly a psychological thing ...

Vergilya said...

I know how it feels to be treated like an outcast although I am not a foreigner. My empathy to all who are going through this setback.

For all those who are not 'Malaysian' and has contributed to make it what it is today, you are truly appreciated by those who know.

As George Orwell says - four legs good, two legs bad.