Press Statement By Irene Chang:
The decision to issue the temporary documentation to eligible stateless children in order to support them to access to education and health facilities in the state is an encouraging step by the state government to hopefully help reduce the number of these children being denied education and health facilities in the state.
However, for these children to fully benefit from this latest decision without any potential confusion and hassle, the state needs to ensure that a proper mechanism is put in place to make sure that there will be full cooperation and coordination between the federal ministries and agencies and the state government. Since education and health are federal agencies, a lack of coordination and cooperation between them and the state government might confuse the ground staff of the former which in turn, might cause lack of enforcement and more frustration among the parents of these children. And as had happened before, problems and issues very often arise because of a breakdown in communication between different agencies and authorities involved.
In fact, there are many things which is within the power and ability of the state government to help all those who are caught in this predicament. Apart from assistance for these stateless children to access to education and medical facilities, the state government should also urgently look into ways and means to help youths from 18 years old onward and whose applications for citizenship are still in process.
For most people, adult life starts at 18 years old when they have to make the decision to either seek higher education or to look for a job to be gainfully employed. They have to start learning living skills in order to be equipped for the working world, including learning to drive, to apply for travel documents, to open a bank account, to eventually get married and to contribute to society.
To most of us, these things would be taken granted. But for those without a Malaysian identification card, every door would be closed to them for them to acquire or to achieve any of the above. Most of these people, if lucky, would go from one menial job to another on the hand-to-mouth existence. There is also no possibility of them ever benefiting from any national and state welfare aid. And without any doubt, this lack of an identification card is contributing substantially to family problems and social ills as a lot of these stateless individual battle poverty, rejection from society and social discrimination on their own.
To alleviate these problems faced by our stateless individuals, the state government should, in line with our stand that we have an equal status as a founding partner in the formation of Malaysia, contemplate issuing a state pass in the form of a Sarawak card to stateless children/persons born in Sarawak.
This card should be subject to a few criteria to be first fulfilled by the applicant before approval, including the criteria that he has “sarawak connection”, the application for the Malaysian citizenship has been made and that it should only be valid for as long as the citizenship application is pending.
The purpose of this card should be to enable these stateless individuals in the state to apply for higher studies in State-run higher learning institutions, to be gainfully employed in some work sectors and to move freely within Sarawak.
They may even be allowed to apply for all state welfare benefits through this card so that these individuals may live their life as normal as possible as they wait for the outcome of their citizenship applications from Putrajaya, which we
all know would take years.
The state government has indeed the authority and ability to enable the stateless persons in our state to achieve a certain level of normalcy. It therefore remains to be seen if they have the sincerity and political will to assist these people, most of whom, are essentially born and bred Sarawakians.