IT WAS extremely good news indeed when National Registration Department (NRD) director-general Datuk Ruslin Jusoh said the department would not impose any deadline on late registration of stateless folk in Sarawak.
He went to Kuching last week for an official NRD event and said Sarawakians without a birth certificate and/or MyKad could continue to apply at any NRD offices without any time-frame imposed.
He also assured that NRD mobile units would continue to scout for these stateless people still living in rural settlements.
What Ruslin said is a huge relief to the estimated 60,000 in Sarawak who are still without a birth certificate and/or MyKad.
There was talk earlier this year that Putrajaya planned to impose a deadline end of this year and stop accepting new applications for late registration in Sarawak.
There are many stateless folk in Miri city and other urban centres in Sarawak as they migrate from the rural areas to find jobs.
Their numbers keep increasing.
I came across two new cases this year in Miri, both with no birth cartificates or MyKad. I referred them to the Miri Welfare Department for help.
According to a welfare officer, the duo hail from the rural area.
“We are looking into the cases and trying to help register them, ” he said.
Late last year, I came across two other homeless folk – one of whom is a child – living in Miri city centre. Both were stateless too and had no proper identification documents.
The plight of this duo was made worse by the fact that the child was oblivious to the predicament facing him in the coming years.
He will not be able to go to school unless his birth certificate woes and his foster mother’s MyKad dilemma are sorted out soon.
His uneducated foster mum has no proper home of her own, no immediate family in Miri and no money.
She was surviving with the meagre income from selling vegetables collected from the jungle.
I tried to help them by reaching out to politicians but until today, there is no solution despite the Welfare Department getting involved.
This problem of homeless folk and document woes in Sarawak is widespread.
It is a big dilemma in cities and towns.
This is an issue that needs political will to solve and it must transcend politics.
The Pakatan Harapan Federal Government and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) must work closely together to find a solution to the birth certificate and MyKad woes in this state.
It is time they put aside political differences and join forces to identify the needy and stateless and bring their plight to the relevant ministries in Kuching and Putrajaya.
In November last year, 190 cases of people without proper documents were uncovered in Miri city in one mobile operation. And that figure was just the tip of the iceberg.
Miri has a large number of urban folk who still do not have birth certificates and MyKads. They also lack the relevant details such as place and time of birth and statements from witnesses to help when submitting their cases to the NRD.
I hope both the Pakatan and GPS parties will carry out another concerted public campaign to identify and help the stateless in Miri and the rest of Sarawak.