Local activists call for citizenship autonomy to be returned to Sarawak after regaining status

Bill (left) and Peter John.

KUCHING, March 11: Sarawak human rights activist Peter John Jaban and Bill Jugah hold that Sarawak should be given control over the issuance of citizenship now that it has regained its original status as an equal partner to Malaya and Sabah in the Federation of Malaysia.

Peter John and Jugah, who have been assisting many stateless persons in Sarawak to apply for the Malaysian citizenship certificates, said they believe that the stateless issue can be solved if the Sarawak government is granted control.

The duo said there are many factors why Sarawakians, especially the natives, do not have birth certificates and identity cards that identify them as Malaysians and pointed out that one of the reasons is the failure of their parents to report their birth to the district offices or national registration offices as they are residing in very remote areas, as an example.

Peter John, a committee member of the Global Human Rights Federation and the founder and Chief Visionary Officer for a newly-formed Independent Council Of Natives (ICON) said many parents in remote areas are also illiterate and ignorant on the urgency and importance of registering the births of their children.

The parents only realise the importance of birth certificates when they want to register their children to study in government schools or when their children apply for jobs in towns.

Without these documents, the children may not be admitted to government schools and they are denied free health services from the government clinics and hospitals.

“These children should be granted citizenship on the basis of written testimonies of their village chiefs or community leaders, without the use of birthday certificates and identity cards, as this system is closer to their practice of customary law or Adat, which itself is law in Sarawak,” said the duo in a press statement today.

They believed that there should not be a problem as the village chiefs or community leaders know everybody in their community.

“The National Registration Department (NRD) should not insist that all applications for birth certificates and identity cards must provide written documents as proof that they are born in Sarawak.”

They both expressed gratitude that a Sarawak minister has joined growing calls for the Sarawak government to be granted control over the issuance of citizenship to stateless people born in Sarawak, especially children, thereby allowing them access to education.

On March 8, Fatimah urged for the State government to be granted control over the issuance of citizenship to stateless persons born in Sarawak, especially children.

Speaking at the state-level International Women’s Day, she said this was important because it would enable the affected children to have the same rights as children with Malaysian citizenship status, especially in education. — DayakDaily