KUCHING, Sept 2 — Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) secretary-general Baru Bian today expressed his disappointment that the Home Ministry has given priority to a United Kingdom-born footballer in granting Malaysian citizenship over thousands of stateless children.
He said there are also many adults and elderly folks still waiting for their applications for citizenship to be approved by the ministry.
“One cannot help comparing these cases of long frustrating waits with the case of this footballer Lee Andrew Tuck who obviously has connections,” Baru, who is also Selangau MP, said in a statement.
He said those who are born in this country but without connections are made to wait for years, with children being deprived of schooling and adults unable to enjoy basic amenities and rights such as opening bank accounts, owning property and getting plane tickets.
“We truly cannot understand what these people have to go through when they are denied citizenship in their own countries,” he said.
Baru recalled that in May this year, the Sarawak Minister of Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah had stated that since the setting up of a special committee on citizenship, a total of 969 applications for citizenship had been received from 2016 to October 22, 2021, but only 253 applications had been approved.
He said Fatimah had cited these same figures in March this year.
“Since citizenship matters are under the purview of the federal government, the Sarawak government is unable to approve the applications.
“I have brought up this matter numerous times and had written in 2020 to the home minister about several former Border Scouts still waiting for citizenship in their twilight years,” he said, adding that one of them passed away just last week without getting his papers.
“Not long ago, the Court of Appeal had ruled that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers and foreign fathers could not be given Malaysian citizenship,” Baru said, adding that is a huge blow to so many families in this situation.
He said these children are not allowed to enjoy even basic human rights.
He said there is absolutely no reason for the federal government to be dragging their feet in this matter, adding that it is no wonder that Sarawakians are increasingly calling for autonomy from the federal government in many matters.
“The civil service is there to serve the people, not to exacerbate or prolong their suffering,” he added.
Lee Andrew Tuck, who plays for Sri Pahang FC, announced on his Instagram two nights ago that he was now a naturalised Malaysian citizen.
The Huddersfield-born player expressed his gratitude to Sri Pahang’s top leaders, especially its owner Tengku Abdul Rahman Sultan Ahmad Shah, for supporting him throughout the naturalisation process.