'Sorry, you can't get married'
It was to be their big day.
Dressed in their wedding finery and accompanied by 25 friends and relatives, the couple arrived at the Registry of Muslim Marriages (ROMM) on Monday to tie the knot.
Like the other couples there that day, Mr Mohamad Norizuan Shazali, 26, and his fiancee, Miss Sharafana Mohamad Shariff, 19, were excited about starting a new life together.
Unlike the other couples, their joy was short-lived.
Before they could get their marriage solemnised, the couple were shocked to be told that the groom was already married - something he claims to have no idea about.
But the proof was there in the registry marriage records. It shows that a man with his name and identity card had married a woman from India in 2012.
How could this be, a puzzled Mr Norizuan pondered as his bride and loved ones rallied around him.
This is how their big day went from cheers to tears.
Mr Norizuan, a driver, met Miss Sharafana at a barbecue party on Changi Beach in January 2012. They started dating the following month.
Not long after, she moved into Mr Norizuan's rented room in Whampoa. Last July, they signed up for the Young Parents Programme, which prepares couples for marriage, and attended premarital counselling.
They have an eight-month old daughter and were planning to apply for an HDB flat after getting married.
They now live with Mr Norizuan's parents in their Tampines flat.
The couple arrived at the ROMM at 8.40am for their 9am solemnisation on Monday.
Mr Norizuan had to make his statutory declaration before the solemnisation and the kadi (Muslim marriage solemniser) asked in a friendly manner if he had been married before. He replied no.
Said Mr Norizuan: "He then keyed my IC number into his computer. His expression changed and he asked me the question again, but in a stern way.
"I replied no again. He didn't say anything but he turned the monitor towards me so I could see the screen."
It showed Mr Norizuan's name and identity card number had been registered in a civil marriage.
"I was confused and thought it was an error in the system at first.
"But when the counter staff told me I could be charged with a false statutory declaration to get married, I was upset. How do I clarify that I am not the person who registered the civil marriage?"
Mr Norizuan approached the Registry of Marriages to obtain a true copy of the civil marriage, for which he paid $50.
It showed that he was married to an Indian national in 2012. (See report on facing page.)
Around 10am, one of the staff members at the ROMM told him to sign a form to cancel the marriage solemnisation.
The couple made the painful decision to cancel their wedding, which included a bridal photography session and dinner for 500 guests at the void deck of the bride's mother's block in Tampines.
Mr Norizuan suspected that someone could have misused his identity to register the civil marriage.
He said: "I lost my identity card in June 2012, and the civil marriage was registered on Aug 7, 2012. Why would I put in the time and effort to prepare and pay for a wedding to my fiancee if I was knowingly married to someone else?"
Ms Sharafana, who is not working as she is looking after their baby, believes her fiance is telling the truth.
She said: "We are very close and we are together most of the time. He is a responsible person, and devoted to me and our daughter. He works hard and takes care of our family."
Breaking down in tears as she recalled their morning at the ROMM, she said: "I was very shocked, disappointed and embarrassed. We had to ask our relatives to leave because the solemnisation could not take place.
"They kept asking me what happened, but I was speechless. I did not know how to explain the situation to them."
Her father, Mr Mohamad Shariff Mohd Halik, 43, a driver, who was supposed to witness the marriage, said he also did not believe Mr Norizuan was married to someone else.
"I trust him. He has been with my daughter and stayed with her through thick and thin," he said.
Mr Norizuan regrets not reporting the loss of his IC in June 2012.
He said he had left it and his driving licence in a company lorry he was driving at the time. He forgot to lock the doors one night, and both cards were missing the next day.
He did not report the loss of his IC because he did not want to pay the $300 replacement fee, as it was the second time he had lost his IC.
He finally had it replaced in June last year when Miss Sharafana gave birth, as he needed his IC to register their daughter's birth.
Mr Norizuan said he had spent $15,000 of his savings on the wedding package and would not be able to get his money back.
Instead of spending the afternoon having their bridal photos taken, the couple, still in their wedding outfits, went to the Kampong Java Neighbourhood Police Centre to make a report.
In the report, Mr Norizuan stated that he had not registered the civil marriage in 2012, and that he had lost his identity card in June that year.
The police confirmed the report on Monday, and said they were investigating.
Although Mr Norizuan had cancelled the wedding day plans, he was hoping the solemnisation could still take place if they could straighten out the situation by the afternoon. But it was not to be.
As for the dinner, he said the table settings, decorations and stage were ready when they visited the venue at 11pm on Sunday.
By the time he called the wedding planner to cancel the dinner on Monday morning, the caterer was midway through the food preparation.
He said: "I'm very frustrated that I cannot marry my fiancee.
"We had been looking forward to register our marriage so that we can apply for an HDB flat and settle down in a place of our own with our baby.
"But now I don't know when we can get married. And even if we can, we will no longer be able to afford the wedding we had planned to have."
According to a copy of the civil marriage certificate that Mr Mohamad Norizuan Shazali paid $50 to obtain, he is married to a woman who holds an Indian passport.
The names and identity card numbers of two Singaporean witnesses are also on the certificate.
The solemnisation was made at an address in Tanglin Halt. When The New Paper went to that address, it turned out to be a vacant HDB flat.
A neighbour who gave his name as Mr Salleh, 40, a logistics supervisor, said the flat had been vacant for at least two years.
He said an Indian couple in their 60s used to own the flat, but the husband told him they were moving out as they could not afford the monthly payments.
Mr Salleh recalled seeing two men in their 20s to 30s living in the unit for a short period with the couple before they moved out.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU LOSE YOUR IC
Anyone who loses an identity card (IC) must report the loss and apply for a replacement in person within 14 days, says the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) website.
A police report is required only if you are a victim of crime.
Otherwise, you can make a Statutory Declaration when you go to the ICA to report the loss.
The replacement fee is $100 for the first loss and $300 for subsequent losses.
If a lost IC is found after a replacement has been issued, the old IC must be returned to the ICA.
VOIDING A SHAM MARRIAGE
It is rare for someone to commit identity theft to get married, said lawyer Adrian Wee of Characterist LLC.
But he added that it was not unheard of for people to enter into a sham marriage so the foreign spouse can gain long-term residency in Singapore.
There are people who will pay significant amounts to procure a sham marriage, he said.
"A person whose identity was stolen and used to register a sham marriage has to convince the authorities that it was not him who had registered the marriage. This, in itself, is an uphill task," Mr Wee said.
He added that the victim has the option of seeking to annul the sham marriage, but doing so would mean admitting he did register the marriage.
A spokesman for the Registry of Marriages advises anyone who suspects his or her identity had been misused to register a marriage to make a police report and apply to the courts to void the marriage.
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