KOTA KINABALU: DNA testing is now among the methods being used to ensure only genuine citizens are issued Malaysian birth certificates when they apply for late birth registrations.
Children of Malaysian citizens were issued with green birth certificates while the documents of foreigners were red, said Sabah National Registration Department (NRD) director Ismail Ahmad.
He said the issuance of birth certificates, particularly for those registering their births late, was time-consuming as the department had various strict guidelines to ensure that only locals received the Malaysian document.
“It takes time as we have to verify them through interviews, clinical records and sometimes even through DNA testing so that we do not issue a Malaysian birth certificate to foreigners,” said Ismail.
About 30,000 late registration birth certificates had been issued to Sabah natives since the year 2000 through this arduous process as part of the department’s outreach programme, particularly in the interior districts.
Ismail added that such outreach programmes were necessary as many natives did not register the births because the transport cost from their village to the NRD office in the nearest town was too costly for them.
The NRD also employed strict procedures when registering the births of children of foreigners, especially in the interior districts.
“We do not want illegal immigrants to slip into their communities, claiming that they were born here but were not registered,” he said.
Ismail said the issuance of birth certificates to offspring of foreigners was also for monitoring purposes as these children, some of whom were stateless and often uneducated, might be prone to criminal activities. Registering them would enable the police to have information on them.
The issuance of birth certificates to stateless children, he stressed, did not mean automatic citizenship.
Ismail said the department was duty bound to register every birth in the country under the various laws including Section 7 of the Birth and Death Registration Act 1957 (Act 299), Sarawak Birth and Death Registration Ordinance 1951 (Cap 10) and the Sabah Birth and Death Registration Ordinance 1951 (Cap 123).
He added that there appeared to be confusion about the definition of stateless children, with some assuming that these were the children of illegal immigrants.
Stateless children are the children of local natives who have not been registered as well as children of foreigners in Sabah who have documents issued by the authorities such as the Immigration Department or the Chief Minister’s Department, Ismail clarified.