KOTA KINABALU September 5, 2012: UPKO Citizenship and Security Bureau chief Datuk Donald Peter Mojuntin has urged the National Registration Department (NRD) to consider setting up a special unit to handle citizenship cases involving Sabahans who were born in Brunei before 16 September 1963.
This will smoothen and expedite the processing of citizenship applications from these people by the NRD headquarters, he said.
Donald said there are no problems in the application process at Sabah NRD, but the glitch would occur when the applications are sent to Putrajaya for approval.
“The relevant officers there do not seem to appreciate and are unsympathetic to the problem faced by Sabahans who were born in Brunei before the formation of Malaysia,” he said when commenting on the case of Puan Morrin, a Sabahan born in Brunei before the formation of Malaysia who finally obtained her Malaysian citizenship after years of waiting.
“We are happy for her but we cannot help but feel disappointed that it took her an unreasonable length of time to get it.
“She was born to Sabahans who were working in Brunei to earn a living as this was the case for numerous families from Sabah before Malaysia was formed.
“It is a fact that there were a lot of employment opportunities in Brunei during that era especially in the oil and gas industry. It was inevitable that a lot of Sabahan children were born in that country,” he said.
Donald lamented that after 49 years since the formation of Malaysia, there are still many of these people who have not been able to obtain their citizenship.
It is sadder to note that some of them have applied and re-applied for citizenship only to receive a rejection letter each time, he said.
“To make matters worse, these rejection letters would only come a year or a few years later. One can just imagine the heartache that they and their families feel. How can it be that they are Sabahans but not Malaysians?
“They are holding red MyPR or red IC. People who are given this type of identification documents are normally foreigners who are citizens of other countries. These Sabahans find themselves in a ridiculous situation where they are ‘countryless’.
“They certainly are not Brunei citizens nor are they citizens of another country. Why can’t they be Malaysians? It is their respective right by virtue of being genuine Sabahans. It is a very frustrating and perplexing situation,” he said.
Donald, who is Assistant Finance Minister, said that in the background to all this is the allegation that illegal immigrants are getting legal identification documents through illegal means.
“It is no wonder that most (if not all) Sabahans are concerned and emotional over these matters,” he said, adding that the claims about illegal immigrants being treated better than genuine Sabahans are very real and palpable.
“To date, UPKO Citizenship Bureau has managed to help 11 Brunei-born Sabahans in obtaining Malaysian citizenship, which should have been rightfully theirs to begin with,” said Donald.
“Sadly, there are still 14 cases brought to us that are unresolved,” he said, adding that the Bureau has a good relationship with the NRD in Sabah.
“This is probably due to the fact that the present director Ismail Ahmad and his predecessor, Datuk Abdul Jaffear Henry, are Sabahans who understand problems that are specific to Sabah,” he said.
The problem is when these applications are sent to Putrajaya for approval and the relevant officers there do not seem to be unsympathetic to the problem of Sabahans born in Brunei before the formation of Malaysia, he said.
“UPKO Citizenship Bureau therefore proposes that NRD forms a special unit to handle this type of specific cases until all Sabahans who were born in Brunei before 16 September 1963 obtain their citizenship.
“Perhaps if this is done, Puan Morrin’s brothers Elbert and Jimmy can also receive their long awaited citizenship.
“In the meantime, UPKO Citizenship bureau is, as ever, ready to assist those Sabahans who are still facing difficulties with regard to matters relating to the NRD.
“We’ll continually strive to bring all these to the attention of the Home Ministry and the NRD.”