By BORNEOTODAY REPORTERS
KOTA KINABALU: Luyang assemblyman, Phoong Jin Zhe tells detractors of the government’s legalisation programme to consider the plight of the stateless children in Sabah.
“Don’t punish these children because of the sins of their parents. If one of their parent is a Sabahan, especially the mother, then the child is a Sabahan. There are no two ways about it, he said in a statement Thursday.
“If it is due to late registration, can’t the government help them? It’s not that they are ineligible. They were born in Sabah after all.
“If both parents are non-citizens, obviously they will be deported when caught. But the children will be left behind. What do we do with them? Can the opposition give us a solution instead of just criticising the government to gain political mileage?” he asked.
It takes great courage to make unpopular decisions, said the Luyang assemblyman, but he believes it is time to take that bold step because the problem of stateless children in Sabah will not simply “vanish into thin air”.
Left unattended, the problem will simply be passed on to future generations while continuing to escalate into even more serious social problems and hence incurring even greater cost for the government of Sabah.
“We fully support what the Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal is doing. Our failure to act on this or our inaction can cost us highly in the future.”
In the meantime, the stateless children will live their lives in limbo because they will not have access to education or the opportunity to contribute to society, said Phoong.
“Where would we send them back to when they don’t have documents? They should have an education as every child in this world is entitled to and although the government’s decision is not popular, it must be done.
Phoong previously raised the issue of stateless children in Sabah when delivering his budget speech last year during the Sitting of the State Legislative Assembly.
Stressing on the need for a young labour force to cater to industries in Sabah, he said it was therefore important to give the children access to education and health services, apart from it being a basic human right.
“This will curb the rise of social problems on a long-term basis and at the same time, create much-needed workforce in the future,” he said.
With good training and education for them, he believes they will provide Sabah with a workforce that is young, knowledgeable and plentiful to help transform all economic sectors.