Sarawak Special Committee on Citizenship should continue, says Sebastian Ting
SUPP expressed shock at the recent decision by the decision of the Ministry of Home Affairs secretary-general Datuk Seri Alwi Ibrahim to discontinue the Sarawak Special Committee on Citizenship under Article 15A of the Federal Constitution.
“It came as a shock to us and the majority of the people of Sarawak because from what we can gather, the committee has been successful and has been doing very well to help resolving problems of children with citizenship issues as well as to facilitate and expedite applications, since its formation in the year 2016,” according to SUPP secretary -general Datuk Sebastian Ting, Piasau State Assemblyman
He said they fully understand and are in full agreement with Minister of Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah when she stated her disappointment over the said decision.
Alwi had in a letter dated July 22, 2019 stated that all cases in Sarawak over the subject matter must be referred to or re-submitted to the Home Affairs Ministry for coordination purposes, according to Fatimah, who is also Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) Women’s chief.
Ting added that the perception on the ground is that this is yet another political decision rather than on the performance and merits of works done by the Sarawak Special Committee on Citizenship.
“The question here is does the Home Affairs Minister have knowledge of this letter?,” Ting questioned.
“I would like to reiterate my personal opinion here, as a Political Secretary to former minister Tan Sri Peter Chin Fah Kui for number of years, I had the honour and privilege to have met the present Minister of Home Affairs Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who in my humble opinion, has always been kind, considerate and has a soft spot for Sarawak all these years, even when he was in BN (Barisan Nasional).”
On February 22 this year, Fatimah and her two Assistant Ministers, namely Datuk Francis Harden (Community Well Being) and Rosey Yunus (Women, Family and Childhood Development), paid a courtesy call on Muhyiddin, who assured them that the committee could continue.
“I fervently hope that the Home Affairs Minister would look into this issue and allow the committee to continue to assist the Home Affairs Ministry to continue their good work,” Ting said.
SUPP, he disclosed, received quite a number of cases of children with citizenship issues and most of the time it was because of local men and foreign women having children before their marriage was properly registered under the Malaysian law. This resulted in their offspring being classified as “stateless” which made it impossible to enrol them into primary schools, local university, apply for healthcare services, welfare services and many more.
“The process of obtaining approval for these applications have been steady but slow, since 2009,” he added, noting waiting for a few years was the norm and that often, the first application of an applicant will be rejected, without assigning any reason thereof.
Only in very rare and exceptional cases, again without any apparent reason, few obtained approvals in their first application, according to Ting.
“The natural reaction and feeling of such rejected applications was always of great disappointment and disbelief. The frustration of going through the whole process of submitting a new but same set of documents is difficult to describe in words. But apply they must,” he explained.
He expressed concern that the decision of the federal government to discontinue the Sarawak Special Committee on Citizenship would cause unnecessary delays to the application because all cases in Sarawak are now required to re-submit to the Home Affairs Ministry. The children are on the losing side if delays in the process were to continue, he added.
“We are also concerned about the additional burden to the affected families who are already under so much stress and the mental well-being and self-esteem of the children concerned. We received calls and WhatsApp messages from families asking how the decision of the federal government going to affect their children’s application and how much longer they have to wait to get the citizenship approval,” he said.
“We really do not know the answer. We can only hope for the best.”
Ting emphasised the issue of granting of citizenship to these children should not and must not be politicised and that politics should take a back seat in this matter.
“In our genuine efforts to help these children, we must be able to put aside all political differences; after all, it should be the responsibility of all elected representatives, Sarawak Members of Parliament or Sarawak Legislative Assemblymen and Assemblywomen, to give their best to resolve this “stateless” issue,” he added.
As Pakatan Harapan (PH) is now the federal government, it will be best that additional members from PH parties be appointed to be included in the present committee, he suggested.
“We have come thus far; be compassionate and let us continue to do the right thing. After all, these “stateless ” children are children of our own Sarawakians who have lived here since birth and will contribute to Sarawak in the future,” he stressed.
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