Rika Herline, now 17 years old, has to stop her studies because she has no Mykad despite her birth certificate proving that she was born in Malaysia.
She has twice applied for her Mykad – in 2013 and 2015 – but both attempts were futile, leaving her in a lurch.
Met outside Bangunan Tuanku Haji Bujang here, where she joined several other stateless children, Herline, who was born on Aug 31, 1999, said she had no choice but to leave SMK Tebakang where she studied because she could not produce her Mykad every time she was asked to do so by the school authority.
Hailing from Kampung Mongkos in Tebakang, Herline was accompanied by her father Ji-in Ngampu, a Bidayuh Christian.
According to Ji-in, whose wife is an Indonesian, his two other children have the Mykad, unlike Herline, who is the eldest sibling.
The group, led by S4S and Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia), yesterday held a peaceful demonstration outside the gates of Bangunan Tuanku Haji Bujang here to voice their predicament to the National Registration Department (JPN) on the stateless children across the state, especially among the rural community.
Human rights activist Peter John Jaban later told reporters that Herline had been denied her Mykad despite having a Sarawakian father.
“Her parents were married under the Bidayuh traditional Adat (native law) in 1998 before her (Herline) birth and have a certificate to prove it,” he said, adding that the couple also has a civil marriage certificate.
John argued that since JPN had issued Herline with a birth certificate it meant that she is a Malaysian and should be issued a Mykad.
“But then, when she came to apply for the Mykad at the age of 12 as required by the government, the staff destroyed her original certificate and issued her a new one as ‘Bukan Warganegara,” he pointed out.
John believed that there were several cases with similar circumstances among the rural communities, who are cut off ether physically or socially from the urban environment.
In a statement distributed to the media, John said Sadia and S4S would assist in taking legal action against JPN over the case.
He said the case to be filed by Simon Siah, Chua and Chow Advocates would seek a ruling that JPN must recognise family relationships governed by native Adat and put in place a process to this effect.
Meanwhile, Siah opined that the Adat has the force of law in Sabah and Sarawak, “but JPN are not upholding either because of ignorance in Putrajaya or because of a policy to negate the Adat, we cannot be sure.”
“But as a result, we are seeing numerous cases of rural Sarawakians who are unable to register their children simply because they have been following their long-standing Adat, as it is their right under both Malaysian law and under international law,” he continued.
The Borneo Post Online