Shafie urges compassion for stateless people

Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal has called for more compassion towards stateless people, especially those who are denied citizenship because one of their parents is not Malaysian.

He said stateless people should not be denied their rights merely due to concern over the possibility of another round of Projek IC.

“Many of them did not get documents because of problems with their parents’ marriage, such as unregistered marriages, while for others, it is because one of their parents is not Malaysian.

“How can we penalise them for this? Just because one of the parents is not Sabahan, we deny them access to school and proper documents,” he said to reporters here today.

Shafie said he supports the call to send home any children born to immigrants if both parents are non-Malaysian.

However, he said it is the responsibility of the federal, not the state government to provide stateless people with documents.

He added that the state would not form any task force to track down stateless people as it had no right to do so.

“That is the federal authority. The state government does not have any kind of scheme to do this. We have no authority over the matter, which falls under the jurisdiction of the home ministry.

“But where there is room for us to help our Sabahans, we will,” he said.

It was reported last year that there are some 800,000 stateless people in Sabah, mostly the children of immigrants who come to Sabah legally or otherwise.

There are also many natives in the interior who are stateless as their parents did not register their births.

The number has nevertheless decreased over the years, thanks to a mobile court which travels to Sabah’s interior to assist such individuals.

Opposition leader Jeffrey Kitingan, however, voiced concern over Shafie’s comments, saying there are many illegal immigrants who are nonetheless issued blue ICs and now identify themselves as Malaysians.

He added that the number of locals who marry undocumented foreigners is actually very small compared to those who obtain ICs illegally.