KOTA KINABALU: A Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) politician's remark that there are limits to showing sympathy to children of foreigners has drawn flak from various non-governmental organisations.
Anne Keyworth, a social activist who heads the Bukit Harapan shelter for the disabled, said:
How can we just shut them away? They are innocent children and since they are in our state, we have a responsibility to them.
She was commenting on a remark by PBS leader Johnny Mositun who said stateless children should be considered as illegal immigrants.
Mositun, who also disagreed with the call by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) for the children's their status to be verified, said the children should be rounded up during anti-crime operations and kept at Sabahs immigration detention centres until their parents claimed them.
Keyworth said Mosituns suggestion was unrealistic as many of the deported parents did not have money to return to Malaysia to claim the children.
Sabah Chinese Womens Association honorary president Christina Liew said PBS should offer constructive suggestions on how best to resolve the problem of stateless children.
The Government wants to resolve the situation so lets offer our ideas instead of just criticising, she said yesterday.
The plight of 43 stateless children, aged four to 15, being held at the Menggatal immigration detention centre here was revealed last week by Suhakam commissioner Datuk Hamdan Adnan when he led a team to check various grievances raised by detainees at the facility commonly known as Rumah Merah.
Hamdan had called on the authorities to determine the children's status and to move them from the centre or separate them from adult detainees.
Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman was reported as saying that the Government was seeking a comprehensive solution to the problem.
There were currently between 12,000 and 40,000 stateless children in Sabah.
Sabah Immigration Department director Baharom Talib said officials from his department would meet their counterparts from the Prisons and Welfare Departments to resolve the issue of where the detained stateless children should be housed.
Suhakam deputy chairman Tan Sri Simon Sipaun said the rights of the stateless children could not be ignored simply because they were not Malaysians.
These children are human beings and human rights have no borders, he added.