Give us our Mykad, say ageing former Sarawak border defenders

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 19 Mar 2016

LAWAS (Northern Sarawak): They risked their lives defending the borders against foreign invasion during the Confrontation era in the 1950s and 1960s.

Without them, a big chunk of Sarawak could have ended up in the hands of a foreign country and Malaysia's borders will not be what it is today.

But despite risking their lives, these former soldiers who served as Border Scouts along the Sarawak mountains with Indonesia have no citizenship as they have failed repeatedly to get a MyKad.

These former soldiers of the Lun Bawang minority ethnic group from the Bakelalan highlands in northernmost Sarawak are now in their 70s and 80s and all they have to show for their heroics are red and green identity cards.

The Star learned about their plight when five of them met Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) deputy president Datuk Nelson Balang Rining in Lawas town on Saturday.

Balang, who is SPDP divisional chairman, arranged for the five to travel from the deep interior highlands to meet with this reporter.

The five are Basar Arun, 76, Kadamus Liling, 71, Basar Paru, 86, Florant Arun, 70 and Anderias Sha, 76.

Basar said many other former Sarawakian soldiers were like them who have no MyKad.

"We were born in the 1930s and early 1940s and we served with the British Gurkhas to defend our territories during the confrontation with Indonesia (in late 1950s and early 1960s) .

"At that time, Malaysia was not even formed yet. (Malaysia was formed in 1963 when Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah came together).

"We served as the Border Scout soldiers for Sarawak in Long Semadoh and Bakelalan.

"When Malaysia was formed, we applied for IC to get citizenship but the National Registration Department was unsure whether we were born in Kalimantan Indonesia or Malaysia.

"Until today, we have tried repeatedly to apply for MyKad but all we have are green IC or red IC.

"We are already very old. We want to be recognised as Malaysians and be given citizenship before we die," he said in Lun Bawang and translated by Balang.

Balang said the NRD should be more merciful with these groups of stateless folks.

"They were soldiers recognised by the Persatuan Bekas Tentera Malaysia but yet they cannot get a MyKad.

"They are already old and yet they cannot qualify for Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia or get welfare department aid, housing aid for hardcore poor or hospital benefits.

"Worse still is that their children also cannot get MyKads.

"There is a need to solve this dilemma or else it will pass on to the generations to come," he said.

Balang called on the Home Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office to intervene.

"They have been duly recognised as our country's soldiers and many of them have received certificates of appreciation.

"Despite all these, they cannot even get the MyKad.

"They risked their lives defending our borders. The least they expect is to be able to get a MyKad before they die," he quipped.

Balang said had it not been for these Border Scouts fighters, a big chunk of northern Sarawak could have fallen into foreign hands.

"SPDP is trying to get more information on these stateless former soldiers but most of them are now living in far away interior settlements, he added.

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