Wednesday, April 14

Sarawak Special Committee on Citizenship reinstated to help stateless children


Rashidah exchanges the signed documents with Fadzil, witnessed by (from left) Dr Zufar, Fatimah, Kadim, and Abang Ekhsan. – Photo by Roystein Emmor

KUCHING: The federal government has approved the state’s application to reinstate the Sarawak Special Committee on Citizenship to help stateless children apply for citizenship.

This special committee under the Welfare, Community Well-being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Ministry was previously formed in 2016 for the same purpose but came to a halt in 2019 when Pakatan Harapan (PH) took over the federal government.

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Minister Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah said she received word on the approval from the Home Affairs Ministry this week, and the committee will have its first meeting on April 20.

“In terms of membership, there is a slight change as it is now co-chaired by myself and the Deputy Home Minister. This means we can speed up the citizenship application process, look into each application, and make faster decisions,” she said after the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between her ministry and Unimas Holdings today.

Fatimah said the status of the children must be taken care of quickly as the problems they face would only increase as they grow older.

“They will lose out in education, healthcare, self-esteem, and become a problem to the family and also community. Thus, we cannot let this happen. They also face problems in getting healthcare as they have to pay the foreigner rate, and in getting jobs once they reach 18, 19, 20 years old,” she explained.

She said the special committee will ensure all applications are complete with all the necessary documents and paperwork, to ensure the application approval rate is high.

Fatimah also stressed that all the applications are sent straight to the Home Affairs Ministry for consideration and approval, not the National Registration Department (NRD).

“Many people misunderstand that the NRD determines the citizenship. It is not. It is by the Home Affairs Ministry,” she said.

The Sarawak Special Committee on Citizenship, formed under Article 15A of the Federal Constitution, received 723 applications from 2016 to 2019.

On the MoA, Fatimah said it is for two social research projects this year – ‘Drug Use Among Secondary School Students in Sarawak’ and ‘A Comprehensive Study on the Causative Factors Leading to Stateless Children in Sarawak’.

“These issues are the focus of the ministry, and the research will be evidence-based input so that we can develop programmes, policies, and targeted and inclusive social intervention,” she said.

The MoA was signed by the ministry’s permanent secretary Dr Rashidah Bolhassan and Unimas Holdings Sdn Bhd interim chairman Prof Datu Mohd Fadzil Abdul Rahman.

It was witnessed by Social Development Council executive secretary Dr Zufar Yadi Brendan Abdullah and Unimas Holdings Sdn Bhd general manager Dr Abang Ekhsan Abang Othman.

Also present was Unimas vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Kadim Suaidi.