SERDANG, April 6 — The issue of stateless children in Sabah is so bad that only a strong political can solve it, Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh said today pointing to how the issue of suicide has been tackled with popular dialogue sessions.

She said every time the matter is brought up in Parliament, MPs are faced with dozens of files on those who have been declared stateless.

“I realised it's a scary topic one not many want to deal with and in Sabah, it's the state with the highest numbers of suicide because of the problem of statelessness. But the issue of statelessness in Sabah cannot be resolved without involving Sabah leaders as it's a big election issue every single election. That issue is played up.

“That's why it's important to put aside the political cap and both sides in Sabah must sit down and agree on one method to take this forward if not it becomes a political issue every time and no one dares to move,” said during a forum in Universiti Putra Malaysia here.

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“So Sabah's situation is very unique. They need to sit down and agree on a way to move forward and not use it as a political card,” she added.

Yeoh said compassion is needed when dealing with children before a resolution or policy is finalised, as those who are innocent should not be penalised.

“You can't open a bank account, get a driver's licence, access healthcare and even food. Statelessness won't go away but it's affecting the children born here, raised here.

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“If we don't deal with this it'll haunt us 18 years down the road. So this government wants to decriminalise suicide and the home minister is working tirelessly to clear the backlog,” she added.

Human rights groups have highlighted the plight of stateless children in Sabah for years. They found many young children begging on the streets of Sabah when they should be in school.

The bulk of complaints the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) received in Sabah since 2017 were regarding statelessness and citizenship issues.

The commission said that it was also apparent that the state’s current political situation prevented a clear solution to the issue even when all quarters agreed that action must be taken.

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