Sunday 29 May 2011

Non-Muslims in Sabah in a limbo

Hi Sarawakians, if this can happen in Sabah, it may also happen in Sarawak too or maybe it is already happening here - 1Christians

In their birth certificates there is no indication of race or religion, only the words 'information not available'

KOTA KINABALU: Many non-Muslims in Sabah are living in a limbo. In their birth certificates, there is no indication of their religion or citizenship status. In the space for citizen and religion columns it is stated “maklumat tidak  diperolehi” (information not available).”

A former researcher and analyst who only wanted to be known as Steve, says that there is a big need for improvement as data gathered by federal government departments is  hopelessly and perhaps willfull wrong.
The root of the problem, he says is that right from the beginning departments like the National Registration Department (NRD) failed to gather accurate information about citizens or others who do not fall into the  category of Muslims.

He said that when he recently scrutinised government forms he was surprised that the forms failed to provide for the large population of non-Muslims in Sabah who were simply bracketed “information not available” group.

He said this is abuse is  because of the inconsistency in the birth certificate application forms for Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia.

Relating his experience, he said: “On May 20, the place I was staying was burned down. As a consequence, I lost all my personal documents including the original copies of my birth certificate and MyKad.
“On the same day, I went to the Penampang Police Station to make a report and was told to collect the type-written report on May 23 which I did.

“From there I went straight to the Fire Department and obtained a confirmation letter from the officer in charge and then proceeded to the NRD, Penampang Branch to apply for a replacement of MyKad and birth certificate.

“There was no problem with my MyKad application as everything went smoothly and I obtained a temporary identity document.

I was asked to collect the MyKad in one month’s time.

“However, I found it very strange that the birth certificate application form does not provide for the applicant’s citizenship status or religion.”

Steve pointed out the application form for registration of birth that is used in the Peninsula provides for both.
“When I checked my younger brother’s new birth certificate issued in the state, the section that comes under “Agama” (Religion) was filled as “maklumat tidak  diperolehi” (information not available).”

He asked the officers the reason for the failure to include “religion” in the application form for birth certificates while the birth certificate itself that NRD issues provides for such.

The officer said: “We only follow the information we get from the old birth certificate. We have not received the new forms from Putrajaya and we do not have the budget to print new forms that could capture the data reflected in the new birth certificate.”

“He addedc that  if I was not satisfied and have any comments or queries, to please ask Putrajaya. Here, we only do as we are told.”

‘Information not available’

He said there are different birth certificate  forms for Malaysian citizens depending on which part of the country they are born in.

Those registering their births in the Peninsula fill up forms that come under the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1957 whereas those in Sabah are given a form that comes under the Registration of Births and Deaths Ordinance 1951, (Sabah).

A closer look at the form distributed in the Peninsula shows that all necessary details, including citizenship status and religion but these are non-existent in the Sabah forms.

“Even if I proceed to fill up the form and furnish my baptismal certificate (that says I’m a Catholic) and the marriage certificate of my parents (which says that they are Catholics), it is very likely that the NRD officers would not recognise them as supporting documents,” said Steve.

“If that is the case, then what is the point of getting a birth certificate that is full of “maklumat tidak  diperolehi”.

It is well known that one’s religious identity is important in this country.

“My birth certificate would be next to useless as it only shows (a) Where I was born; (b) birthday; (c) my racial identity and (d) the names of my parents – while my  religious identity is not available.

“Now, if that is the case, then when one tries to come up with the right statistics on religious composition in Sabah based on the registration of births and deaths, one will find the data to be in favour of one religious group – Muslims.

He said that with so many thousands of Christians and non-Muslims recorded as people without any religion, the budget for religious development in the state would be slanted to favour a single group.

“This error can lead to some overzealous policymakers to assume that only Muslims exist in Sabah while the rest are “pagans” who therefore, do not deserve any development funds for,” he argued.

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