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By William Isau
SIBU, Jan 17: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakop’s action to help 22-year-old Rohana Abdullah get her citizenship rights sorted out is highly commendable.
Rohana was two years old when she was abandoned by her Indonesian mother and was raised by Chee Hoi Lan, 83, a kindergarten teacher where Rohana’s mother worked as a cleaner.
Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) Rajang Branch chairman Bill Jugah, in a statement today, said he sees this as a positive indication that the Malaysian government is seriously taking steps to address this long-standing issue which is affecting not only the rights and well-being of its citizens but also tarnishing the image of the government in the world’s eyes for failure in upholding human rights.
“I urge the government to not only tackle this individual issue but also to accommodate the numerous similar cases spread all over the nation, including in Sarawak and Sabah,” he said.
Bill said Sarawak has more than 920 cases of statelessness and citizenship cases with differing categories in hand.
“My immediate concern is the denial of education rights to those of school-going age. Some cannot even complete the online registration as needed to get their names accepted into the education database system. Some were required to go to the Immigration Department to pay for an annual student pass. Some were required to obtain passports from other countries. Some were forced to pay for textbooks that are provided free to others.
“The nation is losing potential workforce in the form of future lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, machine operators, entrepreneurs, and nurses. In addition, we are already facing a brain drain to our economic system where talented Malaysians have become expatriates abroad.
“The government, particularly the Home Ministry, needs to upgrade their current guidelines in the issuance of identity cards (ICs). We cannot depend on ministerial intervention in individual cases, as exemplified in Rohana’s case. Ministers have other pressing matters concerning the nation to attend to so that this nation can be free from extremism, cronyism, corruption, and racism.”
He explained that the nation has a lot to gain when the statelessness issue is resolved, particularly in the banking sector. Banks would increase their customer base and pool of funds when stateless individuals can open savings account once they have their MyKad.
Bill added that even the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) would benefit and dwindled funds after i-Citra, i-Sinar, and i-Lestari withdrawals can be replenished when statelessness and non-citizenship issues are resolved.
“At this moment, I am keeping this matter within our nation to allow our government to address this long-outstanding matter internally. I would resort to United Nations only when I have exhausted all other means.
“I have set up a simple gateway website (bit.ly/BillJugah) to receive complaints from those affected by this issue. In addition, I would be corresponding with relevant government agencies, including the Malaysian Commission of Human Rights (SUHAKAM) very soon,” Bill concluded.
Other organisations endorsing this press statement are Dominique Ng of Sarawak Association of People’s Aspiration, Terabai Kenyalang Heritage Association of Sarawak (TKHAS), DRAF ( Dayak Ritual Awareness Fellowship), Persatuan Etnik Dayak Asal Sarawak, Peter John Jaban of GHRF (Global Human Rights Federation), PurpleLily Social Association Kuching, and Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru. ― DayakDaily