By THE BORNEOTODAY TEAM
KOTA KINABALU: Julitah Bahiau, the distressed mother of a ‘stateless’ son can soon heave a sigh of relief over her ‘religious’ woes, after her state lawmaker promised to help her out of her predicament.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said he would do all he can to help his constituent from Ranau and told the media Thursday, his aides would get in touch with Julitah as soon as possible.
“In fact I have directed the Christian bureau in Umno Ranau to get in touch with her to get things done,” Masidi said at a press conference after launching the International Workshop on Proboscis Monkey Conservation in Sabah Thursday morning.
According to Masidi, his political officers to get in touch with Julitah “and we will offer our assistance where needed to facilitate her family to sort out her problem.”
On Wednesday, borneotoday.net highlighted Julitah’s predicament in an article headlined: A desperate mother’s plea: Please help my ‘stateless’ son go to school.
As of 1pm Thursday, more than 5,550 people have read the article online.
Julitah, a Dusun originally from Ranau said that her son, Aryton Verlando who was born at the Hospital Likas here was unable to be registered for school despite reaching the age of seven years, as he does not have a birth certificate.
She claimed that the birth certificate that was issued to him had the word ‘Islam’ on the space marked religion, and when Julitah objected, NRD officers took it away and later told her to reapply with the Islamic authorities.
The problems arose because her own MyKad has the word ‘Islam’ on it although she is a practising Christian.
Non governmental organisation Perpaduan Anak Negeri (PAN) Sabah chairperson Esther Golingi who raised the issue, said that it was not an isolated case, and thousands of people especially in Sabah’s interior are facing issues with their religious status with the NRD.
In a separate article also in borneotoday.net Esther said Julitah’s case was not unique as she had come across thousands of poor, and often illiterate, Sabahans in the same boat.
“Against the wishes of our people, many have been purposely and/or wrongly identified as Muslims. Others have been given Muslim names against their wishes,” Esther pointed out.
But Masidi said he looked at the issue on a case by case basis and also because Julitah was from Ranau, his constituency.
“I don’t know about others ….not informed of other “thousands” of such cases, but she (Julitah) is from Ranau and fellow Ranaurians must help each other,” he added.
In Malaysia, apostasy out of Islam is not allowed, and in Sabah, such cases of mistaken identities often find themselves stuck in a loophole, unable to change their religious status for years or even a lifetime.
The issue of “islamisation” has been a thorny issue in Sabah, with many local indigenous complaining of being duped into the religion either by wrongful classification in their documents, or by dubious conversion methods.
The fact that many Sabahan names contain the word “bin” – conventionally used by Muslims – have been attributed to aggravating the problem although the National Registration denied this.