KOTA KINABALU, Nov 3, 2014:

Reuniting separated family members is more humane than acknowledging the separation by giving stateless children in Sabah a Malaysian identity.

Former Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee said street kids and stateless children were humanitarian issues. The Malaysian, Philippine and Indonesian governments must work closely together to reunite these children with their parents or relatives in their countries of origin, he said.

Reuniting families, he said, had been done in many countries and the method could be applied here as well.

Jumping on the bandwagon against Home Minister Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s call to offer birth certificates for stateless children in Sabah, Yong said the issuance of birth certificates to stateless children would only compound the already critical situation of illegal immigrants “submerging” Sabahans.

“The people of Sabah are increasingly suspicious of the failure of the government to release the report by the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants in Sabah after a long delay.

“Now, we are hit with another slap by the Home Minister, who has declared that stateless children will be issued birth certificates,” he said in a statement.

The Sabah Progressive Party president said it was known that most of these children of illegal immigrants were street kids who had been separated from their parents.

Some were also born outside Malaysia, prior to entering the country, and others were abandoned by their parents.

“Some have lost their parents because the parents have been detained and deported to their countries of origin after being picked up from their places of work, like construction sites.”

Yong believed that whatever lawyers and the Home Minister had to say about the issue, it could not be denied that many illegal immigrants were getting MyKad even without any birth certificate.

“If an illegal immigrant can be a Malaysian citizen without any birth certificates, what more street kids once they have been given the document? Is this not a case of birth certificates now, MyKad later?” asked Yong.

He said not only were these children “legalised” as Malaysians, but soon they would become Sabahans and Sabah natives.

This issue, Yong said, irked Sabahans and said it was important to find a more suitable approach to overcome this issue.

Zahid last week stated that birth certificates would be issued to stateless children in Sabah, based on humanitarian grounds.

This was to allow these children to attend school, which was a basic need for every young child worldwide.

His proposal, however, invited critics from all quarters, both from the Barisan Nasional and Opposition leaders, who urged him to reconsider the move for fear of opening the floodgates to more problems, in addition to worsening the long-standing issues plaguing the state, such as the large presence of illegal immigrants.

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