PETALING JAYA: Penampang MP Darell Leiking has urged the Sabah government to take charge of birth and death registration in the state amid a controversy over the religious status of a boy who was born to a Christian woman but registered as a Muslim in his birth certificate.
Speaking to FMT, Leiking said the right to register births and deaths in Sabah belonged to the state under the Sabah Birth and Death Registration Ordinance.
He said this matter should not be entirely in the hands of the National Registration Department (JPN).
He was commenting on the case of seven-year-old Aryton Verlando, who is unable to go to school because his birth certificate is not with him. JPN is allegedly holding it.
Aryton’s case came to light after his mother, Julitah Bahiau, a Sabahan, wrote a letter to Sabah-based news portal Borneo Today.
Julitah, a Christian, said Aryton, who was born in 2010, was issued a birth certificate which identified him as a Muslim. She was subsequently told to get an order of release from Islam from the Sabah Islamic Religious Council.
She said JPN took Aryton’s original birth certificate and was withholding it without issuing a temporary certificate.
Leiking said he had come across other such cases.
He said it would be wrong to deny citizenship to a child born of a genuine Sabahan.
“If there are issues with a child’s religious status, then that needs to be looked into, but it doesn’t change the fact that a child with a Sabahan parent is a citizen and can’t be denied his or her rights as a citizen, including the right to education.”
He said the Sabah government had to look at the issue “in a holistic manner” and develop a proper method to determine if a parent of a child who didn’t have citizenship papers was a genuine Sabahan.
“In Aryton’s case, if his mother is a genuine Sabahan and a DNA test proves that he is her child, then he can’t be denied his citizenship and rights,” added.