KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will ensure the registration of stateless children – who have one Malaysian parent – is carried out in a transparent manner, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.
He said the state was supportive of the federal government’s move to resolve the long-standing problem.
These children were denied citizenship due to various reasons including parents failing to register their marriages, he said.
“My view is it is good because whether their mother or the father is a Sabahan, their children – who are without documents – must be helped to ensure they have access to education and other rights,” he said amid a political firestorm, mainly from the opposition, over the initiative to help the children born to one local parent.
Sabah has been facing the long-standing problem of stateless children, including those whose parents were illegal immigrants.
Shafie said the state wanted both the National Registration and Immigration departments to come up with a comprehensive solution.
“How can we penalise these children? We must take a humanitarian approach,” he said.
He said all communities across the state faced the problems.
He said the opposition was trying to give the impression that the children of foreigners would be legitimised.
“I’m fighting for Sabahans,” he said when responding to opposition leader Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan’s plan to hold mass demonstration against the exercise.
“Where there is room to help Sabahans, why can’t we help them?”
Meanwhile, the Home Ministry’s plan to provide documentation to stateless children is not an automatic issuance of citizenship, says Deputy Home Minister Datuk Azis Jamman (picture).
He refuted a claim by Jeffrey by saying that the proposal is to ensure that the rights of these children are protected in line with the United Nations Convention for Children.
“My answer in Parliament to him was that that the government’s plan was to take a census of the number of such stateless children and that they would be given identity documents,” he said.
Azis added that in cases where a child had one Malaysian parent, the government would consider issuing them citizenship irrespective of their race, religion or ethnicity if they meet the requirements.
“Nobody is being left out by the government as accused by the opposition. Our efforts are mainly to resolve and help stateless children who don’t have documents,” he said.