KUCHING, May 22 — The process of granting citizenship to children who are without documentation in Sarawak is still pending federal approval, says Minister of Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development Datuk Sri Fatimah Abdullah.

In this regard, she said only 253 out of the total 969 applications for citizenship received by the Special Committee on Citizenship between 2016 and 2021, had been approved.

“The stateless children would continue to be denied from receiving education, healthcare, employment opportunities and welfare assistance if they had to wait any longer (for the approval of the citizenship applications,” she said during a press conference held at Baitulmakmur 2 in Petra Jaya here on Friday.

Adding on, she said her ministry or the National Registration Department (JPN) Sarawak did not have the details on the number of citizenship applications submitted to the federal government.

“The power to grant citizenship status lies with the Ministry of Home Affairs and its minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin, and not with JPN Sarawak,” she highlighted.

Fatimah reiterated the key function of the special committee, established under Article 15A of the Federal Constitution, which was to facilitate the application of citizenship for undocumented individuals in Sarawak.

Formed in 2016, the committee was stopped in 2019 during the Pakatan Harapan rule, but was reintroduced by the Perikatan Nasional-led government last year.

In relation to this, Fatimah said the special committee had called a meeting in March this year, where it was stated that over 70 new citizenship applications from Sarawak had been submitted.

In addition, she said her ministry and the Education Department of Sarawak had also held a meeting to discuss the issue regarding the school enrolment for Sarawakian children who were without Malaysian citizenship.

“The (Education) Department allows these children to enrol to schools on a condition that one of the child’s parents must have Malaysian citizenship, and that they have to pay annual fee of RM120 for primary school and RM240 for secondary school, which is equivalent to the fees charged to foreign students,” she pointed out.

According to Fatimah, the Education Department Sarawak has so far approved 119 children to attend primary school, and 77 to attend secondary school for academic years 2022 and 2023.

“They include school-children who are not Malaysian citizens, those with unknown status, those residing in Sarawak, and also those who are without documentation,” she added. — Borneo Post