More “weird cases” of statelessness

Peter John Jaban

KUCHING, Dec 15: Sarawak activist Peter John Jaban brings to light more “weird cases” of statelessness.

As there are such weird cases, he cautioned Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin to come out with innovation solutions to handle the issue of statelessness.

“I am dealing with the case of one woman, also the daughter of a former border scout from Balai Ringin, who was allowed to deposit a substantial amount of money from her pepper farming into BSN on the strength of a green identity card.

“Then, JPN (the National Registration Department) withdrew this type of identity card and now the bank are refusing to allow her to withdraw her own funds. Clearly her identity was good enough for them to take her money, but not to return it. In the first place, why BSN except her money?” Peter John questioned.

Apart from the Balai Ringing case, Peter John brought up another strange “weird case”.

“I have dealt with a case of a woman who was made a ward of the State as a young child as she came from an abusive family. Despite a Sarawak clinic card from the time of her birth, she was denied citizenship, even though the application was made by the Welfare Department, all because her unfit mother had failed to register her. Now, her daughter is also stateless. Why is this piece of documentation, all she has to offer, not sufficient?

“At the very least, these people have been resident in the country for their whole lives. JPN must follow their stories carefully, not with a view to exclude but rather with a mindset of solving the problem where they firmly believe the case to be genuine. This rigid bias against recognising claims has caused untold difficulties,” said Peter John.

Peter John who has been dealing with stateless individuals, applauded Hamzah for a quick response in the wake of the case of Basar Arun and several other border scouts and Sarawak rangers who served during Confrontation but have been denied their citizenship despite this service to the nation.

While he hoped that this new initiative will make some headway with the problem, he cautioned Hamzah that without a proper understanding of the issues in Sarawak, this latest drive will also result in yet another failure.

“The Home Minister is paying attention at least. This is good news for us in the Borneo States. But unfortunately, he is likely to find that one year will be a very short timescale given the infrastructure problems in Sarawak. Additionally, I am concerned to see that he is still talking about ‘documentation’.

“This is the root of the misunderstanding. Many of the natives of Sarawak simply do not have any. They were born in rural villages where registration was unknown or uncommon.

“All these years later, as a result of inaction by JPN on this issue, they are simply too late to correct this problem. Even worse, they have not been able to register their children. So, the problem goes on.”

“Any new drive that insists on a small range of evidence is simply doomed to failure. The Minister must come up with innovative solutions to this issue. In the case of Basar Arun, the hospital cancelled his bill on the strength of his medals. Will JPN consider similar evidence?” Peter John questioned.

He said if there were to be an amnesty, then it must be a broad-ranging and responsive approach to avoid wasting further public funds.

“JPN must go to the ground and identify potential candidates. They should not expect the lifelong stateless to read about it in the press and apply on their own. It should be given proper time and resources to come to fruition.

“Most importantly, it must get to the root of the issue. Documentation must be taken in its broadest sense. Just as oral histories take their place beside recorded histories to allow indigenous voices to be heard around the world, so must JPN adapt their administrative requirements to allow indigenous peoples to receive their rights. This is the very definition of a responsive government,” said Peter John.

Hamzah had on yesterday announced that his ministry is giving stateless individuals a period of one year to register with proper documentations.

He said he will make the announcement on the mechanism soon and called on those who have not registered to do so as soon as possible. — DayakDaily