KOTA KINABALU: The birth record document, which will replace the birth certificates issued for stateless children in Malaysia, especially in Sabah, is to allay fears that they will end up becoming automatic citizens.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the document would be of a different colour and have dissimilar features from the birth certificates of Malaysians.
“We listen to the concerns of Sabahans and understand their concerns. Therefore, the Cabinet has decided on using an alternative method of registering the children of stateless people,” he said when opening Parti Bersatu Sabah’s (PBS) 29th delegates conference here.
He said the issuance of birth certificates had brought about assumptions that these children would eventually obtain citizenship.
Najib, who is also Barisan Nasional chairman, made it clear that any birth record or document would not be a ticket for them to get automatic citizenship status.
The registration of birth is a fundamental right of all children and an obligation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by 194 countries, including Malaysia.
Najib said the Federal Government always kept its ears to the ground to listen to the concerns of people and take immediate steps to address them, adding that in addition to the issue of birth records, his administration was also working on resolving other matters, including the cost of shipping under the 34-year cabotage policy, security and land issues.
He also assured PBS delegates that the government would not waver from defending the freedom of religion practised in the country.
“If there are any doubts, we will refer to the Constitution, the 20-point Agreement and the 10-point solution,” he said, stressing that the government did not want to see “Little Napoleons” implementing own interpretations of government policies.
Najib said that he was “touched” by the pledge of PBS president Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan and party members for Sabah to remain in Malaysia.
“This is the most valuable statement by the PBS president. He is a true patriot of Malaysia although someone close to him is saying different things outside,” he said.
Earlier in his speech, Pairin said the rationale and process used in the issuance of birth certificates to stateless children were vague and not discussed in a transparent manner with the state government, resulting in disatisfaction and confusion among the people.
Najib, who also opened the 25th Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) congress later, touched on the higher cost of living caused by the cabotage policy, imposed in 1980, in a bid to integrate all Malaysian maritime laws under the Ministry of Transport. He said that the Federal Government was looking into addressing the problems.
“Sabahans have been blaming the cabotage policy as the main reason for the higher cost of goods when in reality, that is not really the reason.”
“If local shippers are fixing prices, then we have to look into this,” said Najib who ended a two-day official visit to the state capital yesterday.
During his visit, he was also briefed on the controversial development along Sabah’s iconic Tanjung Aru beach and the successful hatching of lobsters at the integrated lobster aquaculture park in Tuaran.
Ministry: 14,095 stateless children recorded since 2003