KUCHING, Nov 24: Indigenous people (IP) communities are appealing for an extension of the Dec 1 deadline for applications to the National Registration Department (NRD) for identification documents.
In a statement today, Peter John Jaban, a human rights activist who is also Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) CEC (Central Executive Committee) member thanked Minister of Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah for spearheading the special task force to resolve many cases of statelessness in Sarawak.
“We would be glad to provide more input and data to the task force because there are still many cases of statelessness among the IPs especially the schooling children,” he added.
Peter also quoted Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who was reported as saying in a statement on Nov 5 that a deadline of Dec 1, 2017 has been set to approve all applications from stateless children for MyKad or birth certificates.
Although Zahid said after that deadline, NRD will continue to look at leftover and fresh cases, and solve problems of all stateless children and individuals in Sarawak by September 2018, Peter is appealing for more time because of a variety of reasons. He noted there are about 290,437 stateless children currently without citizenship documents residing in Malaysia including Sarawak.
Zahid had also said MyKad applications of people living the interior including the Penans, which have been compiled by a taskforce led by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Joseph Entulu Belaun, will also be looked into.
Bill Jugah, a SADIA resource person who is voluntarily assisting Peter in this matter, added that there are still cases of statelessness in areas where the NRD has yet to mobilise the task force such as in the case of SK Lubok Bedil in Song where he was informed that most of the students there are without identification documents, and SMK Balleh, Kapit where there were 14 stateless students, as informed to him in June this year.
There are about 80 students in SK Lubok Bedil while the status of the SMK Balleh students still remain unresolved going by the recent announcement by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing in bringing up the case of three of the 14 students to the relevant authorities for further action, he said.
“We need to muster all the necessary machinery available to us to comply with Article 7 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights if the nation is to be seen championing the rights of the IPs of Sarawak,” Bill said.
“Stemming from this issue, another prevalent matter has cropped up where the issue of religious conversion without willful consent. This goes against Article 13 of the Malaysian Constitution. More so, I have received reliable information that the NRD is withholding letters from MAIS (Majlis Agama Islam Sarawak) releasing converted individuals who had applied to leave Islam upon their reaching adulthood.
“This is a grave concern where complications such as having difficulties in registering their marriages and not being able to live their lives and practise their preferred religions freely, have arised. ” Peter added.
Peter said he had helped hundreds of stateless individuals in obtaining their identification documents in past years.
He added that last year, he had even threatened to sue the NRD for not recognising ‘Adat’ marriages and more shockingly, destroying a birth certificate which was already issued thereby stripping the citizenship of a Bidayuh girl.
He reminded the relevant authorities that the Cobbold Commission Report warned that the formation of Malaysia must not lead to a submersion of the individualities of the Borneo states.
“ ‘Adat’ is part of life in Borneo,” he said.
“The NRD cannot come up with policies to ignore that reality and negate ‘Adat’.” — DayakDaily