KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal has urged the authorities to consider granting citizenship to children whose births were registered late if one of the parents is a Malaysian.
He said the issue of late registration of birth needed to be addressed effectively, or the affected children would suffer.
In most cases, financial difficulties, inaccessible rural areas and lack of awareness are often associated with the issue but it becomes more complicated when a local marries a foreigner.
“Under the law, it is only the wife’s nationality that is considered. If the husband is local, and the wife is a foreigner and not around, then you can’t get citizenship for the child,” Shafie said.
He said this should not be the case. “Otherwise, the children will become stateless. There are people out there who are Malaysians without IC.”
For instance, Shafie said he had met a Dusun woman from Sook in interior Pensiangan, who had three children, and the husband who was a foreigner had left them.
“We are concerned about their well-being. Some quarters are complaining that we are issuing ICs, which is not true. These are not illegal immigrants,” he said while attending a mobile court service in Keningau.
He said the state government was looking at a realistic solution to the problem.
As such, he was happy with the mobile court service, which enabled those in rural areas to have their cases heard without having to travel to the state capital.
Among those who sought the help of the mobile court service was Marai Dai Pius who had been abandoned by her partner some 10 years ago.
Pius, who is of Indonesian descent but holds a Malaysian identity card, has had a difficult time resolving her daughter’s citizenship status.
Pius, 39, was never married to the man, who is Indonesian, which means there is no marriage certificate to validate the birth of their child, Mia Maria Velera, who was born in 2008.
Making matters worse, the farmer was not only unaware of the need to register her daughter’s birth but also did not have the means to do so and as such, Mia’s birth was only registered four years after she was born.
The National Registration Department (NRD) issued a late birth registration certificate as Pius did not have the required marriage certificate and was also way past the deadline of 42 days to register a birth.
“My partner left me when Mia was seven months old and it was difficult to register her birth because we never got married,” Pius said.
In another case, a woman who only wished to be identified as Norline claimed her husband took her two children away when they were in primary school and she was only reunited with them years later.
“I only met my son and daughter again after they searched for me on Facebook. Their births were never registered,” she said, as she showed her children’s late birth registration certificates to a magistrate hearing her case.
The Murut woman’s case was made more complicated when the mobile court found that her own birth was registered late and that her certificate contained a potential discrepancy.
The court doubted how she could have obtained a MyKad when her late birth registration certificate was not signed and endorsed by a First Class Magistrate as required by law.
Rosie Jipar, a Dusun mother of 10 from a remote Keningau village, told the mobile court that she had no money to register the birth of her 10th child.
Her nine older children have obtained their identity cards but her youngest child does not have one.
The girl was born in Dec 2005 but was only registered in April 2006. Her application for a MyKad is still pending.
In the end, all the women’s applications for their children were endorsed.
Besides the mobile court, other government agencies such as the National Registration Department, the Immigration Department and the police, were also on hand to help resolve the people’s issues.
The mobile court, a service started by Chief Justice Richard Malanjum in 2007, allows those from remote areas access to legal service, particularly the hearing on late birth registrations.
Malanjum said the main issues on the cause for late birth registrations for the rural community centred around financial and logistical problems.
“If they have late birth registration certificates, they are not admissible evidence, so there needs to be an inquiry from the court.
“In the olden days, people needed to travel to Kota Kinabalu or Sandakan and this will incur high costs. With this system, we go to the people,” he said.
He said about 40,000 cases of birth certifications have been resolved since the mobile court service started.
“Without this programme, many of them will be stateless. When they go to (for example) hospitals, they will be registered as foreigners,” he said.
Judy Chin, a volunteer for charity NGO, Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, told FMT that her group was handling about 20 MyKad applications for children whose mothers were foreigners although their fathers were Malaysians.
She said these were poor families and the NGO also provided food and other assistance to them on a monthly basis.
“The children in the families we handle normally have late birth registrations and the parents do not have marriage certificates.
“But I managed to speak to the chief minister and he told me to list down all the families and he will look into their problems,” she said.