By Nigel Edgar
KUCHING, Jan 28: Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah will propose to the Home Ministry to shorten the processing period for citizenship applications under Article 15A of the Federal Constitution, which grants special power to register children aged below 21.
Fatimah said she would forward this proposal when she meets Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Feb 22.
Currently, applying for citizenship through the Special Committee on Citizenship Status under her ministry would take the applicants about a year before they would get a reply from the Home Ministry.
But before the special committee was formed in November 2015, the applicants would have to wait between three and five years to know the result.
“We are hoping that after the courtesy call on Muhyiddin next month, the Home Ministry will further shorten the time it takes to process the applications under Article 15A of the Federal Constitution,” she told reporters after chairing a Special Committee on Citizenship meeting this afternoon.
Since November 2015 till now, the committee has received 631 applications for citizenship under Article 15A. The breakdown is as follows: 2016 (67 applications), 2017 (174), 2018 (318) and so far this year (72).
The majority of the applicants are Indonesians, followed by Chinese nationals.
Out of 241 applications that have been deliberated by the Home Ministry from 2016 to 2017, 95 have been approved.
“Our primary concern is for the stateless children under 21 years of age to have access to education. Very often, we find them dropping out of school because they have no proper documents although their father is a citizen.
“The problem is their mothers are foreigners, and they were born before their parents were married. In some cases, their parents are still not married. So, the children will assume the citizenship of their foreign mothers,” she said.
On the Education Ministry’s decision to relax regulations to grant access to education for stateless children beginning this year, Fatimah remarked that this would allow this group of children to attend school while awaiting a decision on their applications under Article 15A.
However, she pointed out, because they are not citizens, primary schoolers would each have to pay RM120 annually, while for secondary schoolers, the figure is RM240 per child.
Fatimah said she had asked the Education Department offices in Kuching and Sibu to consider allowing instalment payments, especially for lower income families and those with more than one children as the current policy would burden them financially. — DayakDaily