KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Shafie Apdal has assured that the state government is working to solve the massive problem of stateless people in Sabah.
The Parti Warisan Sabah president said although the issue had been around for a long time the government needed to tread carefully when dealing with it.
“It is quite a delicate and very complex issue because it involves people who have been here for a long time,” he said.
“So how can we resolve this? I think there are some laws we need to follow to ensure this issue can be resolved as soon as possible
“We are dealing with it… Rest assured, there will be a solution to it. The new government has an approach that whatever problem we face, we must resolve it,” he said to reporters here today.
Shafie was commenting on concerns raised by a coalition comprising 21 associations representing various ethnic groups in Sabah that claimed that there were at least 800,000 stateless people in the state.
The coalition’s head Nani Sakam said most of the stateless people lived in remote areas and many were children of indigenous communities such as the Rungus, Murut and Dusun.
The coalition also said it feared that the number would grow in the next 20 years if nothing was done to address the matter.
“From our research, the majority of these people are undocumented because their parents did not bother to register them or it was just due to ignorance,” Nani said.
Meanwhile, law and native affairs assistant minister Jannie Lasimbang said the high incidence of late birth registrations was indeed a problem among native Sabahans.
She said initiatives like the “mobile court”, which tried to reach out to rural communities to have births registered, needed to be supported and even enhanced.
“Registration of births for native children born in very remote areas can be resolved if there are personnel in every district hospital, clinic or village to help in the process,” she told FMT.
The Kepayan assemblyman added that public education to encourage parents to take registration of births seriously and remove related misconceptions also needed to be stepped up.
She said the law related to birth registration of native children would be reviewed if it had shortcomings.