‘Sabahan kids deserve priority’
Published on: Friday, March 15, 2019
By: Sherell Jeffrey

KOTA KINABALU: The State Government’s plan to legalise children born in Sabah but categorised as “foreigners” due to one parent being an immigrant continued to be debated with non-governmental organisations saying it leaves many questions unanswered.

One NGO said the Warisan-led State Government should first focus on helping undocumented children born to Sabahan parents, instead of giving priority to “foreign” children.

According to Pertubuhan Paradigma Wanita Sabah (Awas), there are still a lot of children whose parents are both Sabahans, in need of identification documents and birth certificates, especially in the rural areas.

“Why don’t the government work hard on helping these children first. Why are ‘foreign’ children being given the priority,” said its President Winnie Juani, Thursday.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal cited high humanitarian values as the basis for the government’s leadership to help this group, saying they deserve a brighter future. 

He said there are strict set of procedures to adhere to, and the applicant must first prove that the child is born in Sabah and either one parent is a local before the next step is taken. 

“I suggest the government clean up the undocumented immigrants’ first, then only process genuine application as prescribed in our law,” said Winnie. 

“Imagine if there are 1.3 million of them here, how are you to stop mixed marriage? It will only prolong the issue,” she added. 

Another NGO, Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), pointed out that the government should abide by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) by documenting children born to native Sabahan parents get their Native Certificates as this documentation is the right to identity.

Its Asia Coordinator Andrew Ambrose, better known as Atama Katama, said the government should immediately surrender the task of registering the foreign children to their respective embassy under the watch of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“ Instead of using public funds, which are never reported to public, the State must be transparent and accountable by announcing the cost spent on registering our Native children and the foreign children too,” he said, adding that they are assessing how Sabahan natives are asserting their right to self-determination against further marginalisation. 

Joseph Philip, a spokesperson for Hak Asal Rakyat Untuk Sabah (Harus 1.0), in a statement said the State Government should explain to Sabahans why a Malaya-based NGO is operating a birth registration documentation programme in one of the state ministry’s offices. 

“ Why does the State prioritise a non-Sabahan NGO over our own civil societies? 

“ Harus 1.0 is seeking clarification from the government on this serious matter otherwise it would seem that the allegations of granting citizenship is done by a non-government agent. This is a serious public matter,” he said. 

“ Imagine the reason why the Warisan-led State Government want “ pemutihan” children born with intermarried parents yet both parents are no longer around... so how to identify them? 

“ What if the child are born to parents who are both undocumented immigrants, are they going to be given citizenship as well,” he asked.

The State Government’s move to help this children through a legalisation programme (program pemutihan) was also heavily criticised by opposition leaders in Sabah who accused the State Government of issuing identity cards to undocumented immigrants. 

“ Deputy Home Minister Datuk Azis Jamman at the Dewan Rakyat refused to answer Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan’s question and instead accused him for not supporting the government in the ‘pemutihan’ proses,” he said. 

He said this is a great disrespect to the Dayak Association President and the indigenous peoples of Borneo.



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