LAWAS: Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) is trying to compile a comprehensive list on all stateless folk still living in the Bakelalan highlands along the hilly interiors of the Sarawak-Kalimantan border.
Many of them are said to be living in faraway settlements which are difficult to reach by road. Most of them are without vital personal documents like MyKads.
SPDP Bakelalan division has started the ground survey. Its chairman, Datuk Nelson Balang Rining, said the list would be handed over to the National Registration Department (NRD) when compiled.
“We know there are many old folk without birth certificates and MyKads living in isolated regions. We are trying to locate them. The NRD has spoken about this matter and my party will liaise with them to see what we can do,” he told Metro Sarawak.
Last week, five stateless former soldiers from the Lun Bawang community went public with their plight. They risked their lives defending our border boundaries in the late 1950s and early 60s.
Without them, a big chunk of Sarawak might have ended up in the hands of a foreign country and Malaysia’s borders would not be what they are today.
But these former soldiers have no citizenship documents as they had failed repeatedly to get MyKads.
Most of the former Border Scouts are now in their 70s and 80s and all they have to show for their heroics are red and green Identity Cards.
Balang, who is SPDP deputy president, arranged for five of them – Basar Arun (76), Kadamus Liling (71), Basar Paru (86), Florant Arun (70) and Anderias Sha (76) – to travel from the deep interior highlands to Lawas town.
Basar said there were many others like them who were without MyKads.
“We were born in the 1930s and early 1940s and we served with the British Gurkhas to defend our territories during the confrontation with Indonesia (in late 1950s and early 1960s),” he recalled.
“We served as the Border Scouts for Sarawak in Long Semadoh and Bakelalan. When Malaysia was formed, we applied for ICs to get citizenship but the National Registration Department was unsure whether we were born in Kalimantan Indonesia or Malaysia.
“Until today, we have tried repeatedly to apply for MyKads but all we have are green or red ICs.”
Basar said they were old and wanted to be recognised as Malaysians and be given citizenship before they died.
Balang said the NRD should seriously look into their plight.
“They were soldiers recognised by the Persatuan Bekas Tentera Malaysia but yet they cannot get MyKads. They cannot qualify for Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia or get Welfare Department aid, housing aid for hardcore poor or hospital benefits. Worse still is that their children also cannot get MyKads.”
Balang said the authorities should solve this dilemma or else it would pass on to their generations.
They had been duly recognised as our country’s soldiers and many received certificates of appreciation from our leaders, Balang said, adding that had it not been for these Border Scouts, Sarawak would not be what it was currently.