NGOs urged to help tackle statelessness issue in Sarawak

The three NGOs with stateless Sarawakians applying for identification documents at JPN office at Bangunan Sultan Iskandar. From left is Peter John Jaban and Bill Jugah.

KUCHING, Jan 10: Sarawak non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are urged to be involved in the movement to help stateless people in the state to be registered.

This call was made by Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) secretary Bill Jugah in a statement today.

He said though a committee panel has been set up at the National Registration Department (JPN) to handle cases of stateless citizens, the effort of NGOs across the state is needed as stateless Sarawakians are found across the state.

“While we were made to understand and wholeheartedly appreciate that a committee panel has been set up in JPN aside from the special task force to expedite the late registration process, we as NGOs are open to cooperating with JPN in providing assistance including providing information gathered from the grassroots.

“We urge other NGOs to put themselves forward. In this context, we also urge the panel to expedite pending cases of late registration.

“There are still cases aplenty throughout Sarawak especially along the border with Kalimantan, creating a unique situation where the people staying along the border are in a state of limbo ā€” neither are they Indonesians nor Malaysians.

“However, they have been living in Malaysia, as Malaysians, for their whole lives. Therefore, we urge the government of the day to come up with an applicable solution to address this issue since it is a matter of national interest and security.

“Surely their cases must take precedence over Pakistanis given MyKads despite having only recently arrived in Malaysia and unable to converse even in simple Bahasa Malaysia,” said Bill.

Three NGOs comprising SADIA, Sarawak For Sarawakians (S4S), and Saya Anak Sarawak (SAS) as well as human rights advocate Peter John Jaban expressed their heartfelt thanks to JPN, the Ministry of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development and the staff under Datuk Joseph Entulu, who is Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, for a fresh response to the issues of statelessness still faced by Sarawak.

According to Bill, the number of successful applications for identification documents facilitated by these NGOs alone and processed by JPN through the new Sarawak-based task force has long passed the 100-case mark with an additional 23 more applicants brought to JPN yesterday, all facing a wide range of issues.

“However, the number of applicants identified by the task force, despite its good start, is the tip of the iceberg, with efforts largely focused so far on communities with reasonable access to urban centres.

“There remains a huge number of more isolated communities where the work of the taskforce is as yet unknown, from Kapit to Ulu Baram,” said Bill.

The bulk of the successful applications under these NGOs so far hail from Mongkos, Tebedu, Serian and Balai Ringin, he added.

Bill Jugah

He pointed out the 23 applicants at JPN yesterday had various issues with their respective application for identification documents and citizenship, ranging from those with no documents at all dating back to the early days of Malaysia, permanent residency and children of school age without birth certificates abandoned by their parents.

“The group was a mixture of Malay, Chinese, Iban and Bidayuh from Balai Ringin, Serian, Muara Tebas, Bintulu and Selangau, reflecting the common denominator plaguing indigenous people who are born and raised in Sarawak, a vast state with many rivers and posing a major problem to the Sarawak government in providing viable roads for transportation and a lack of education in the interior of the administrative requirements for registration,” he said.

He thus urged JPN and the various ministries not to just extend the time limits placed on the task force but also step up their activities, designing a systematic procedure to ensure access for every community in Sarawak and solve the issue of statelessness once and for all. ā€” DayakDaily