Stateless Penans demand citizenship papers

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PETALING JAYA: A group of activists claiming to represent stateless Sarawak natives today accused the government of falsely promising members of the Penan community to resolve their citizenship woes.

According to Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin, the group has submitted a memorandum to the National Registration Department demanding that it give immediate attention to the process of granting birth certificates and identity cards to the affected natives.

Zuraida distributed copies of the memorandum at a press conference outside the Dewan Rakyat today. The document was also addressed to Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and his deputies in the Home Ministy, Nur Jazlan Mohamed and Masir Kujat.

According to the memorandum, many Penans living in rural areas have had trouble acquiring birth certificates and ICs.

“They are not allowed to go to foreign countries, not even to Peninsular Malaysia,” Zuraida said. “They are forced to bear high medical costs because their status is equivalent to the status of foreigners. They are deprived of access to schools and they cannot enjoy all their rights as Malaysians and indigenous people of Sarawak.”

The memorandum pointed out that a US Department of State report in 2011 had said that the Malaysian Government had sworn to accelerate the process of issuing birth certificates and ICs to the Penans.

However, it added, it had turned out that the government had been making “false promises.” It claimed that thousands of Penans were still without their citizenship documents.

PKR Strategy Director Sim Tze Tzin told FMT that the activists who submitted the memorandum had first asked for help from Baram MP Anyi Ngau but were turned down.

“They were very disappointed and angry that their MP refused to help them,” he said.