KUCHING: Adat, the customary law that has the force of law, should be used to solve MyKad problems in Sarawak, two NGOs said today.
Peter John Jaban, of the Sarawak 4 Sarawakians (S4S), said if the National Registration Department(NRD) were to observe this customary law, it will meet the needs of the rural community.
“It would mean a shorter waiting time in obtaining personal documents,” he said in a joint statement with the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia).
Jaban was commenting on a report that Welfare Minister Fatimah Abdullah was keen to meet school athlete Rika Herline anak Ji-In and her family to help resolve her stateless predicament.
The first priority of the two NGOs, cautioned the human rights advocate, was to help settle Rika’s case.
“We want her to get her rightful status in this country,” said Jaban.
However, he said, “we know that applications are taking up to two years to be processed”.
In the end, he continued, nothing may come out of it.
Two years was significant in a child’s life, said Jaban. “It’s the difference between Form 3 and Primary Six.”
He detailed the consequences of being stateless for Rika — she will not be able to attend school for two years and the impact will be immeasurable, not just academically, but also socially and emotionally.
Arguing that “we cannot throw these children away”, he said Rika was a talented athlete with countless medals from representing SMK Tebakang, her school, to prove it.
“She should have been the next Pandelela, embraced by our state, not thrown aside.”
There are numerous other such cases, said Jaban, but there must be a systematic way to resolve them.
“We want NRD in Sarawak to have autonomy.”
He said going case by case was simply not an effective solution for a widespread problem and not a fair way to determine citizenship.
He referred to lawyer Simon Siah’s take on Adat and summed up: “The NRD is not listening to the people of Sarawak.”
Adat is like common law within the British and Malaysian legal systems, Siah had said. “The codified Adat is very clear.”
The Native Court Ordinance 1992 must be upheld by the NRD, the lawyer had said.