KOTA KINABALU, Nov 16 – Stateless children in Sabah will not be given birth certificates, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today, amid state leaders’ fears that the move would see them granted automatic citizenship. Najib said that the offspring of stateless individuals in Sabah would be given a special birth document instead.
“We will issue them a different certificate – a record of birth which will be in a different colour and is in a different category. “This will not lead to citizenship,” he reportedly said when launching the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) 29th delegates conference today. Najib said the Cabinet had come to the decision following concerns that stateless children with birth certificates would be granted automatic citizenship.
On October 29, Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the children would be issued birth certificates to allow them to attend school, adding that it was humane to do so. But state leaders said such a move would only worsen the demographics in Sabah, which is already plagued with problems related to illegal immigrants.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, quoted by a news portal on October 31, warned that the move would “open the floodgates” to negative reactions from genuine Malaysians. PKR’s Penampang MP Darell Leiking had warned the government not to use the proposal as a means for citizenship or a covert method to eventually make them citizens.
Former Sabah chief minister, Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee said such move would only compound the problem of illegal immigrants “submerging” Sabahans. Yesterday, Najib said the report on the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to investigate the illegal immigrants issue in Sabah would be tabled next month. The commission which was set up on September 21, 2012, had called 211 witnesses in its proceedings, which ended on September 20 last year.
Notable witnesses included former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and former chief ministers of Sabah, including Tan Sri Harris Salleh and Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan. Najib announced on June 1, 2012, that Putrajaya had agreed to set up the RCI to investigate problems related to illegals in Sabah, including a scheme to issue Malaysian documents to Muslim foreigners under what was known as “Project IC”.