Seventeen-year-old Rika Herline Ji-In of Kampung Mongkos near Serian can now heave a huge sigh of relief after receiving her MyKad – ending her ‘stateless’ status which had given her so much difficulties over the years.
The former SMK Tebakang student describes her MyKad as a ‘Christmas present’ that she and her family would cherish throughout the celebration as they look forward to a new beginning next year.
Rika, who collected her card yesterday, hoped that she would be able to sit for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination and thereon, pursue a better future for herself and her family – now that she has obtained the identification document that certifies her as a Malaysian citizen.
“I am very, very happy that I have finally received my MyKad. The next step for me is to sit for SPM, maybe as a private candidate; or continue my schooling. After that, I will decide whether to go for higher studies or skills training,” the Dayak Bidayuh girl said.
Beaming father Ji-In Ngampu said he was just happy that Rika got her MyKad after a long and taxing process.
According to the 40-year-old farmer and odd-job worker, Rika is the eldest child from his marriage to an Indonesian woman – also a fellow Dayak Bidayuh – under the ‘Adat’ (local customs) 18 years ago.
Ji-In’s second child, now 14, already has a MyKad, while his youngest is aged nine – still underaged to apply for it.
“Rika was an active student in school and had won many medals in sports events. She was even selected to represent Samarahan Division in track and field. However the absence of a proper identification document had deprived her from these many opportunities; she could not even apply for assistance programmes.
“Now that she finally has her MyKad, I hope she can continue her studies,” said Ji-In.
Rika is one of the seven people from rural communities in Sarawak who have finally received their Malaysian identification documents, following successful applications done with help from Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) and Sarawak For Sarawakians (S4S).
The other six – whose cases are also based on ‘Surat Tikah Adat’ (marriage certificates of their parents under ‘adat’) are Roziana Akui, Heliana Akui, Emirozy Rosli, Shera Senga, Isabella Kuin and Ica Kuin.
Sadia and S4S spokesman Peter John Jaban said these successful applications had all created an administrative precedent that should be taken forward by the respective government departments in their goal to solve issues of stateless individuals among the rural communities in Sarawak.
He said both non-governmental organisations (NGOs) would call upon the National Registration Department (JPN), Majlis Adat Istiadat Sarawak and the district offices statewide to better tailor their administrative requirements to the needs of the communities in which they served, as well as to work more closely together in giving genuine citizens their full constitutional rights and proper recognition of their customary law.
‘We have been given a great deal of support by various agencies – the JPN taskforce on this issue; the representatives from Majlis Adat Istiadat for these communities and the Penghulus for the area. They have done everything within their means to expedite these cases for the benefit of the community,” he said.
Simon Siah, a lawyer for the families, said it would better if Majlis Adat Istiadat and the district offices – the agencies tasked with the care of Dayak Adat (Dayak custom) and rural communities – to carry out a proper drive, at community level, to register all existing ‘adat’-validated marriages.
“This would mean travelling out to the communities, rather than requiring the impoverished applicants to ‘travel in’ (come to the authorities),” he said.
Siah pointed out that in each case, the parents were properly married under ‘adat’ – meaning that they should ‘enjoy the force of law in Sarawak’.
However, they were turned away either because their marriage certificates were not in the correct form or they were not registered with their respective district office.
“Registration with the district office is not stipulated under law – it is only an administrative requirement. Unfortunately, this aspect of the administration has represented a serious stumbling block to many rural people, who are required to travel to town to register with their witnesses and their Penghulu.
“So, many couples who are living together in the knowledge of their communities – which under ‘adat’ makes their union valid in the eyes of the law – have simply not completed the registration process and therefore, are falling foul of JPN requirements many years later,” he said.
Both Siah and Peter also said the success of the seven cases was good news for the Dayaks amidst the gloom cast by the Federal Court’s decision on Tuesday that the Native Customary Rights (NCR) over ‘Pulau Galau’ and ‘Pemakai Menoa’ land had no force of law.
According to Peter, the ‘adat’ is not only law for many rural Sarawakians, it is their culture and practice since time immemorial and also a part of the Sarawakian identity.
He also said Sadia and S4S would be collaborating further with relevant agencies in solving MyKad issues for other candidates in Balai Ringin next year.
Source : @ The Borneo Post Online