Identification documents: NGOs say lack of awareness still prevalent among rural folk

The three NGOs and Peter John Jaban bringing the stateless Sarawakians to meet up with JPN officers at Bangunan Sultan Iskandar.

KUCHING, Jan 11: There is still a lack of awareness on the importance of possessing identification documents and the process of application for them among rural folk.

According to a joint statement by three non-governmental organisations (NGOs) — Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA), Sarawak For Sarawakians (S4S) and Saya Anak Sarawak (SAS) — this has been caused by the lack of road connectivity, long distance from administrative centres and high travel costs.

“The lack of viable roads, distance to administration centres and high travel costs are among the major setbacks causing many late registrations.

“In addition, there still remains a lack of awareness on the importance of having identification documents and, more particularly, on the process involved to apply, especially in communities which were isolated from urban centres until relatively recently. Many communities were connected to the road network as late as the turn of the century, by which time (the age of) their children were already past the registration date.

Colin Siaw

“Awareness is growing, of course. One of the group (which went to the National Registration Department or JPN on Tuesday), a Malay from Kampung Gobil, approached me for help with his own identification issues even though all three of his children possess MyKads.”

“However, there needs to be a sustained campaign of education and administrative responsiveness which brings the facilities of JPN to the communities rather than expecting impoverished rural residents to seek out help themselves in the urban centres, something which their lack of education and road connection makes incredibly difficult,” said an S4S leader, Collin Siaw in a statement yesterday.

Meanwhile, Dino Watson from SAS added that a fair system must be created to bring about awareness and right understanding on the application process to the rural folks.

“A new procedure must be devised to bring both education and the application process to the rural areas.

Dino Watson

“This must be entirely systematic and based on merit. There should be no political or social bias.

“There are even certain tuai rumahs and penghulus who play favourites when asked by late-registration applicants to sign the forms, if the applicants are not seen as supporting them, who by the way are not elected democratically by the community but appointed by the government instead,” Dino pointed out.

The issue of statelessness has been compounded over many generations. In many cases, where a grandparent has been made stateless, the rest of the family suffer the same fate.

In addition, new cases are being created even in this modern day by an inflexible attitude to the situation of the rural people of Sarawak and a lack of education in rural communities on the proper procedure.

“This cannot be allowed to continue into another generation. The task force is in place — willing and able to affect huge positive change for thousands of rural applicants yet to be identified.

“They must be given the time and the resources to complete their work. This issue has not been solved in the first fifty years of Malaysia.

“It cannot be allowed to drag on for another fifty. The time to settle it is now and JPN and the taskforce must go all the way,” said Dino. — DayakDaily