Seven Sarawakians, who were stateless because they did not possess proper identification documents, have had their problems resolved by a National Registration Department (NRD) task force.
Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) and Sarawak 4 Sarawakians (S4S), who brought up the cases, said they were encouraged by the support government departments were giving in resolving such issues.
So far, three of the seven children involved have been given access to education.
“Most importantly, these applications have set an administrative precedent which should be taken forward by the respective government departments in their goal to solve issues of statelessness within the rural communities in Sarawak,” said S4S spokesman Peter John Jaban at the NRD state headquarters here today.
One of the students involved is Rika Herline Ji-In, 17.
She was prevented from attending Form 4 last year after the NRD refused to issue her an identity card, instead classifying her as non-Malaysian.
This was despite her parents being married in accordance with the Dayak Bidayuh Adat.
“Her family sought out the penghulu multiple times and visited the Commissioner of Oaths on three separate occasions,” Peter said.
He said for many rural families, who cannot read or write, the system is near impossible to negotiate.
“The Commissioner of Oaths in Kuching is only available three mornings a week and there are no photocopying facilities available at the NRD divisional offices.
“These difficulties are the reasons Rika’s identity card, which was promised in one month, has taken more than twice that time to be delivered.”
The family lawyer, Simon Siah, who had planned to take the home ministry and the NRD to court over the matter, said more needed to be done to prevent such cases from occurring.
“Basically, all these applicants were rejected because of paperwork, not because they were not genuine cases.
“Even worse, there seems to be no communication between the various government departments.
“One department may not be aware why some applicants do not have the correct documents from another department.
“This results in genuine applicants constantly being turned away with no explanation and no possible solution.”
The groups called upon the NRD, the Sarawak Native Customs Council and the various district offices to tailor their administrative requirements better to the needs of the communities and to work more closely together to allow genuine applicants their full constitutional rights.
“We must ask the three departments to be more responsive to the needs of the communities that they serve if they are sincere in wanting to resolve the issue of statelessness that still plagues rural Sarawak,” said Peter.
Source : Richard T.W. @ FMT Online