Fatimah: Stateless Sarawakian children still awaiting citizenship approval at Federal level

Fatimah (centre) speaks to reporters at the press conference while her deputy ministers Mohamad Razi Sitam (left) and Datuk Rosey Yunus look on.

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By Nur Ashikin Louis

KUCHING, May 20: It will be a long wait for Sarawakian children without documentation as their applications are still pending approval at the Federal level.

Sarawak Minister for Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development, Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah said neither her ministry nor the State National Registration Department (NRD) has the details on the number of citizenship applications submitted to the Federal government.

“This is because the power to grant the citizenship status lies with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) and its Minister Dato Seri Hamzah Zainuddin and not through Sarawak NRD,” she said during a press conference held at Baitulmakmur 2 in Petra Jaya today.

However, there is a special committee on citizenship established under Article 15A to facilitate citizenship applications in Sarawak.

It was established in 2016 but came to a halt in 2019 during the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government. It was only revived under the current Perikatan Nasional (PN) government last year (2021).

Thus, Fatimah’s ministry only has the data for the period of when the special committee was in force.

For the record, Fatimah during a function in Kuching on March 8 this year, disclosed that a total of 969 applications for citizenship have been received by the special committee from 2016 to Oct 22, 2021.

Until that date (March 8, 2022), only 253 have been approved while the rest are still under consideration.

Today, Fatimah mentioned that the special committee had last convened a meeting in March this year where she revealed over 70 new citizenship applications from Sarawak were submitted.

The longer the wait, the Stateless children are denied from receiving or enjoying right to education, health, employment opportunities and the opportunity to receive welfare assistance.

Additionally, Fatimah said a meeting between her ministry and the State Education Department (JPNS) was held recently to discuss on the enrolment of Sarawakian children without Malaysian citizenship to schools.

She explained that JPNS allows these children to enrol in schools but it is subject to certain conditions whereby one of the child’s parents must be a Malaysian citizen and that they are required to pay an annual fee of RM120 for primary school and RM240 for secondary school, which is a fee charged to foreign students.

She also said that JPNS will work together with State NRD on the necessary procedures for the Stateless children to apply for citizenship where the applicants must have proof of residency and declaration by community leaders among others.

As of April 14 this year, JPNS has approved 119 students to attend primary schools and 77 to attend secondary schools for the 2022/2023 session.

These students comprised those who are not Malaysian citizens, students with undetermined status, students residing in Sarawak and those without documentation.

On the State government’s intention to issue a temporary documentation to enable Stateless children to have access to education and health facilities, Fatimah said the proposal has been submitted to and will be vetted by the State Attorney-General’s (SAG) Chambers. — DayakDaily