KUCHING: The window for stateless individuals to apply for citizenship should not be limited to one year in view of the communications and transport problems in Sarawak's remote areas, says Selangau MP Baru Bian (pic).
The Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) lawmaker said transport issues made it difficult for those in rural areas to obtain proper documentation and evidence such as birth certificates.
"Getting births registered with the government is impossible for many. This has caused their children and grandchildren to be labelled as non-Malaysians, as their parents or grandparents have no citizenship papers.
"The government needs to have a better understanding of the difficulties faced by stateless persons, especially the elderly, and offer compassionate solutions," he said in a statement Wednesday (Dec 16).
Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin had said on Monday (Dec 14) that his ministry was giving stateless persons one year to apply for citizenship with proper documentation.
He told Parliament that the mechanism would be announced soon and urged those who had not registered to do so as soon as possible.
Baru welcomed the announcement but said the ministry needed to consider pertinent issues, including accepting statements from community leaders as evidence in citizenship applications.
"Statements from state representatives and MPs of these individuals should also be accepted as supporting documents in their applications," he said.
In addition, he said the ministry's standard operating procedure and latest requirements should be sent down to the district level in rural areas to ensure clarity.
"In many instances, the officers on the ground are not aware of the latest decisions by the ministry or Cabinet," he said.
Baru also called on the ministry to process the citizenship applications of stateless former border scouts Basar Arun, Joseph Pengiran, Kademus Liling, Basar Paru, Tabed Raru, Baranabas Palong @ Branabas, and Sia Lupang @ Sia Lopong without delay (see links below).
He said they were not eligible to receive pensions or allowances from the government as they were not recognised as citizens.
"Having served the nation in their youth, these elderly former border scouts deserve to live out their lives with peace of mind.
"The least the government can do is to legitimise their status as Malaysians in their old age," he said.