Putrajaya urged to expedite granting citizenship to stateless Sarawakian kids

Fatimah and Assistant Minister for Community Wellbeing Datuk Francis Harden Hollis at the press conference.

By Geryl Ogilvy

KUCHING, May 23: Sarawak hopes the Home Ministry will prioritise and expedite the processing of citizenship applications of stateless children in the state.

Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah said to date, 708 cases had been forwarded to Putrajaya for deliberation since the state-level special committee on citizenship status was set up in August 2016.

The committee looks into applications under Article 15(A) of the Federal Constitution, which is for citizenship registration for individuals below 21 years under special circumstances.

“We hope to receive a favourable decision from the Home Ministry to aid these children. We hope the ministry will prioritise their cases and come up with a decision soon.

“We understand that these children are facing various complications, especially the higher school fees imposed on foreign students that could affect the lower income group. Apart from education, they would not enjoy similar welfare aid.

“Furthermore, school leavers could face difficulty in applying for jobs due to their non-citizenship status,” Fatimah told reporters after the special committee monthly meeting at Baitulmakmur complex here today.

Following the meeting, 26 cases will be submitted to the Home Ministry, of which 15 cases are from the National Registration Department (NRD) offices in Kuching, three from Sibu, five from Miri and one each from Sarikei, Kapit and Limbang.

“In most cases, complications arise due to the marriage between local men and their foreign spouses, which was not done properly in accordance with the country’s law. This led to the citizenship status of the children inheriting the mother’s nationality.

“Another issue is that the children were born before the parents registered their marriage with the NRD, as well as adopted children whose status of biological parents were unknown or that the mother is a non-Malaysian citizen,” Fatimah explained on issues faced by most applicants, which included children not having any identification papers.

On a positive note, the minister said processing time for such applications had greatly improved since the formation of the committee, as Sarawak cases were no longer put under the same basket as the rest of the country.

Processing time, which took over three years, has improved to less than two years.

“Now that it is put under a separate basket, it will be an advantage for us in terms of speeding up the cases. This would help us explain the cases to Putrajaya so that they understand the situation in Sarawak, especially those involving traditional marriages.

“With Putrajaya sympathising with our plight, it could also help cases of adopted children, where the biological parents were unknown or could not be traced,” she added.

Fatimah hoped Putrajaya would approve more cases after the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration. — DayakDaily