Sarawak 4 Sarawakians (S4S) and the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) are assisting an Orang Asal to sue the National Registration Department (NRD) over the issue of Adat marriages.
S4S Chairman Peter John Jaban, who disclosed this in a statement, expressed concerns the Orang Asal has been denied an identity based on Adat. “Her application for MyKad has been repeatedly denied.”
The Orang Asal’s Sarawakian parents married under Adat, said Jaban. “The parents have a Surat Perkahwinan Adat (Letter of Marriage under Adat).”
The case is being brought to court to obtain a ruling that marriages under Adat must be recognised by the NRD. “If the NRD in Sarawak had autonomy, this case wouldn’t arise,” said Jaban. “At present, the rural people do not have their full rights.”
Autonomy for NRD in Sarawak, he reiterated, would mean applications could be processed quickly besides bringing an end to the issue of statelessness there.
Delving into the details of the case, the human rights advocate said the NRD initially issued the Bidayuh girl with a birth certificate indicating her status as citizen with a MyKad number. Her parents were married under Adat in 1998 i.e. before she was born.
They married again at the civil registry.
Jaban alleged that NRD staff destroyed her original birth certificate and issued her with a new one, stating non-citizen, when she applied for a MyKad upon turning 12 years old.
“How is that someone in the backroom at NRD can strip her of citizenship without due process?” asked Jaban. “Her younger brother has a MyKad.”
The Bidayuh girl’s case, he said, was the tip of the iceberg. “We have numerous similar cases.”
“There will be other cases being brought to court.”
Lawyer Simon Siah, who is handling the case, stressed that Adat – customary law – has the force of law in Sabah and Sarawak. “We are not sure why Putrajaya is not upholding it,” said Siah. “It could be ignorance or being done deliberately to deny Adat.”
He said that once the court rules on Adat, the NRD will have to comply with the law. “It will be precedent.”
The lawyer said there were numerous cases of statelessness in the rural areas. The crux of the matter was children being denied their right to an identity because their parents were married under Adat.
Jaban, resuming his take on the case, reminded the relevant authorities that the Cobbold Commission Report warned that Malaysia must not mean 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.”
FMT Reporters Online