KOTA KINABALU, Oct 31, 2014:

A senior Sabah politician warned the government not to play on dangerous grounds and review the consequences of issuing birth certificates to stateless children in the state.

Describing it as “opening the floodgates”, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan stressed such move may invite negative reactions from genuine Malaysians.

“The government needs to look at it on the Constitutional point of view, and since it concerns the stateless children, it becomes a very important area to look at.

“It may be done on humanitarian grounds, but this is a very delicate issue and we must be careful not to add more problems to the existing ones we are now facing in Sabah, such as the.presence of illegal immigrants and the use of illegal documents.

“When we allow this (the proposal), then people from other countries can easily obtain identification cards and use them to vote during the elections, and this include those who had obtained ICs illegally,” Pairin, who is also the Infrastructure Development Minister, stressed.

He said while the act of issuing birth certificate to stateless children was a noble move, since it was done on humanitarian grounds, Pairin, however, said such measure may be abused in the future.

“If you are doing this on humanitarian grounds, I believe soon we all can do anything, all in the name of ‘humanitarian grounds’.

“To me, the genuine Sabahans long for the feeling of being protected and cared for.

“They want the government to do something more so that their interest are properly defended,” said Pairin when met after receiving a call from National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

The Parti Bersatu Sabah president was commenting on Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s recent announcement that Putrajaya would be working closely with the National Registration and the Education departments to issue birth certificates to stateless children, on humanitarian grounds, so as to allow them to get education.

He also disclosed that the long standing problem concerning the stateless children may be overcome when the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Illegal Immigrants in Sabah was tabled soon.

Meanwhile, the Kitingan brothers may not see eye-to-eye politically, but on the issue, Pairin’s younger sibling, Dr Jeffrey, agreed with the elder one’s opinion, stressing that he strongly disagreed with the proposal to issue birth certificates to foreigners who were born here.

“That is not our responsibility. But if it is to be implemented, then it can be done for the future ones, not the existing ones,” said Jeffrey, who heads the Opposition party Sabah State Reform Party (Sabah Star).

He, however, said it was important for the government to come up with a comprehensive programme to ensure the move may not be abused in future.

“I am against giving birth certificates to foreigners born in Sabah as this is a normal requirement of human beings in the civilized world, but their birth certificate must be differentiated from citizens.

“This can be done by a colour code or a reference code, for example NC for non citizen,” Jeffrey proposed.

He said a birth certificate was necessary for any human birth and should be issued to enable the child to have an identity and go to school, among others.

“But not with the intention of automatically making foreigners citizens.

“As such, the government, represented by the Home Minister, must clarify this point to avoid unnecessary worry and interpretation in the future.

Another opposition leader, Sabah Progressive Party president Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee, was of the view that people would immediately see this as another tactic to irreversibly change the demography of Sabah.

“Without a comprehensive solution on the illegals issue, Zahid is adding fuel to the fire.

“People will see it as a tactic to irreversibly change the demography of Sabah, to the detriment of Sabahans and Sabah natives,” he said.

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