Friday 24 June 2011

Baru Bian demands clarity in mixed-race laws

Ba'Kelalan state assemblyperson Baru Bian raised two fundamental issues of constitutional importance at last night's state legislative assembly sitting, seeking redirection on the controversial topics of mixed race and religious freedom.

NONEBaru said there is a need to take immediate steps to amend the state and federal constitutions and other relevant laws to clarify the "vague and ambiguous state" of children of mixed marriages in Sarawak.

"The natives of Sarawak are not only faced with the dilemma of their rights over their land but even their identities are at times denied," he said during the debate on Yang di-Pertua Negeri Abang Muhamad Salahuddin's opening address at the state legislative assembly sitting.

"The 'native status' or 'bumiputra status' for the offspring of mixed marriages (natives and non-natives) is in a vague and ambiguous state in Sarawak," the Sarawak PKR chief said.

In Peninsular Malaysia, he said there is an option to register children of mixed marriages as either bumiputera or non-bumiputera, but Sarawak's laws do not allow a child to be considered bumiputera unless both parents are natives.

"Yet it seems that in practice, for some people, this is not so. If for administrative purposes, children of mixed marriages in Sarawak are considered bumiputera, then it begs the question: why is it that in the Marina Udau's Case, the girl was denied entry for tertiary education as she was not recognised as bumiputera?

NONE"When children of mixed marriages are not recognised as bumiputera, they are denied the privileges that come with the status," he said.
It is high time, Baru said, for the state government to clarify this issue once and for all "for the benefit of all the offsprings of mixed marriages in Sarawak" by amending the definition of 'natives' in the Federal and State Constitutions as well as the Interpretation Ordinance to include all children of mixed marriages.

Currently in Sarawak, he said a child is deemed a native/bumiputra only if the father is a native, but not vice versa.

"But there is no law that I know of, that sanctions this practice," he said.
He suggested that Sarawak follow Sabah's lead, where a native community leader issues a certificate to declare children of mixed marriages as natives.

"In a similar vein, I would like to draw the attention of this august house to a peculiar but crucial matter. 'Natives' of Sarawak (are) defined by Art 161A (7) of the Federal Constitution and, surprisingly, the Berawans and the Sabans who live in the northern region of Sarawak are not classified in the list.
"Yet anthropologists and ethnologists will tell you that the Berawans are arguably the first ethnic group to migrate into the northern region of Sarawak many centuries ago," he said.

Al-Kitab's banning 'very disturbing'

On the issue of religious freedom, Baru said that Sarawak is one of the best states in Malaysia in terms of maintaining racial harmony and upholding religious rights and freedom.

"We owe it to the wisdom and the understanding of our forefathers and those after them who had been very sensitive and conscious of the fact that Sarawak is a land of many faiths and beliefs and that such rights and freedom would be guaranteed when we formed Malaysia.
NONE"To this day Sarawak retained her status as a secular state," he said.

However, Baru said the recent banning of the importation of the Al-Kitab into Sarawak is "very disturbing."
"More alarming is that a sacred book is deemed a material that threatens the security of the Federation under the provisions of the Internal Security Act (ISA).

"It is a sad incident for religious freedom and for pious Sarawakians," he said, adding that the banning has portrayed the government as intolerant and misguided where religious freedom is concerned.
Baru urged the state government to ensure that none of the terms under the Malaysia Agreement are breached.

"I applaud the stance taken by some of the Barisan Nasional leaders on the Bible issue," he said.

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