KUCHING: The fines imposed on late registration of births and late application of identity cards have been blamed for the stateless status of some 300 Penans in Sarawak.
The penalty, according to the Sarawak Penans Association, had discouraged the people from applying for the personal documents.
The National Registration Department charges a RM10 processing fee for late registration of birth while the fine for late application of an identity card depends on the person's age.
Without these personal documents, the association said stateless'' Penans were faced with various problems, such as difficulties in enrolling their children in school and seeking medical treatment.
The association highlighted the plight of these Penans to the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), which discussed the issue with the department's officials here on Friday.
Suhakam commissioner Prof Datuk Mohd Hamdan Adnan said it had urged the department to waive the fines and discussed ways to address the problems, which also affected other ethnic groups.
Suhakam plans to meet the minister concerned on this issue so that no Malaysian would be without personal documents because they do not have the means or are poor, he added in a statement.
Mohd Hamdan said it would urge the Government to set up a special fund to help these people obtain such documents.
He said Suhakam was told that the department had carried out 25 special visits to the interior since April 2001 and registered 5,571 people.
Some 160,000 people living in remote areas had been registered under the special visit programme since 1996.
The department issued 2,589 birth certificates to the Penans between 1988 and 1999.