Sabah says letter to solve late registration problems, not another Projek IC

Benedick (centre) listening to a briefing by Ismail Ahmad at his office today.

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah rural development ministry today denied allegations that it is involved in data collection to launch another Projek IC, after an image of a letter from the ministry seeking information on remote villages and islands went viral this week.

The letter, which was issued by the ministry and addressed to all district officers in the state, is being viewed as an indication that the state government had launched a project similar to the infamous Projek IC.

The ministry’s spokesman told reporters that in reality the letter was only intended to get the list of villages situated far away from the National Registration Department (NRD) offices in each district.

“The letter was signed by the ministry’s deputy permanent secretary on Aug 9 this year. It was meant to get the exact location of villages as an early step to resolve the problem of late registration of births and deaths.

“Many of these were not reported because of the long distance the people have to travel to get to the NRD offices in their districts,” he said.

According to state minister Ewon Benedick, the problem of late registration was a perennial problem not only in Sabah but also in neighbouring Sarawak.

The home ministry, he said, had urged for a new method to solve the problem once and for all.

The letter, issued under Section 21 of the Ordinance of Births and Deaths in Sabah, gave the authority to the village heads to be rapporteurs for instances of births and deaths in their respective villages within 42 days of the date of the births or deaths.

Report forms as well as standard operating procedures are provided by the NRD, including verification processes for each report made by the village heads.

“According to the mobile NRD programme and mobile court programme, a majority of the late registration incidences are due to families’ inability to report because of financial problems and the remoteness of their villages.

“Some are due to problems with the marriage registration and some marriages have not been registered. The problem is, when the children grow up, they will face lots of problems when they try to go to school,” said Benedick.

So far, he said, five district offices and sub-district offices had responded to the letter, namely Kota Marudu, Beluran, Keningau, Sipitang and Kemabong.

Among the farthest villages recorded are Kg Melalin on Jambongan Island (115 km), Kg Long Pasia, Sipitan (113 km), Kg Long Mio, Sipitang (106 km), Kg Sonsogon Mogis, Kota Marudu (93 km) and Kg Tagibang, Kota Marudu (90 km).

Benedick was earlier briefed on the issue by Sabah NRD director Ismail Ahmad and the ministry’s permanent secretary Abu Bakar Abdul Latif.

Projek IC refers to the allegation of systematic granting of citizenship to immigrants by giving them MyKads in the 1990s during Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first stint as prime minister. It was alleged that the cards were issued for political reasons in the run-up to state elections.

Sabahans jumpy over letter seeking info on remote villages and isles