Thursday, August 13

‘Clarify ‘Sarawak connection’ rule for adopting children’

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Irene Chang

KUCHING: Bukit Assek assemblywoman Irene Chang is asking the Sarawak government to clarify the requirements of ‘Sarawak connection’ for children to be adopted in the state.

She said there have been some cases where applications to adopt an abandoned child had failed because the would-be parents could not prove the child’s ‘Sarawak connection’ despite meeting the five-year residency requirement.

“On Feb 17, 2017, a memorandum was issued by the State Attorney-General (SAG) to all district offices that a child can prove his or her Sarawak connection by proving a five-year consecutive residence in Sarawak,” said Chang when debating the State Budget 2020 yesterday.

She said pursuant to a workshop conducted by the Ministry of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development on June 8, 2017, the standard operating procedure (SOP) which was compiled also included the five-year consecutive residence in Sarawak to prove ‘Sarawak connection’.

“It therefore came as a bit of a shock when in December 2018, adoption applications concerning abandoned children, where there was no information on the identity and whereabouts of the biological parents, were all rejected by the Sibu District Office,” she added.

Chang said this was despite the interested adoptive parents having been deemed as fit and proper persons to adopt the child concerned.

“Later, we were informed that these applications were rejected by the district office acting upon a memorandum dated Nov 21, 2018 by the SAG that abandoned children whose parents are unknown do not have any Sarawak connection.

“I would like the minister (of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah) to clarify why the SOP was not followed by allowing these families to prove the Sarawak connection of these children, by proving the five-year consecutive residence in Sarawak,” she said.

Chang said she regretted the actions by the SAG and local government in rejecting the applications by the potential parents simply because the requirements were either changed unnoticed, or due to misinformation presented during workshops conducted by the ministry.

“The applicants were informed that their applications would be rejected as long as it is stated in the nationality of the birth certificate of the children that they are ‘Bukan Warganegara’ (non-citizen), regardless of whether they can prove the Sarawak connection through the five-year residence or otherwise.

“This makes it impossible for these children to ever succeed in being adopted because it has been a practice for the past few years that as long as the biological parents are not able to be traced, these children would be categorised as non citizens. Not ‘Bukan Ditentukan’ (undecided) as previously,” said Chang.