Hefty fine for late registration of births will lead to more 'stateless' cases

THE government’s decision to impose a fine of RM1,000 for the late registration of births will eventually cause more rural children in Sarawak to be stateless.

The fine is just too high for the rural poor. I know of hundreds of water bills with arrears that rural folk cannot afford to pay, and most of the bills are far below RM1,000.

That reflects how much RM1,000 is to the poor.

Poor parents who realise that they need to pay a RM1,000 fine for the late registration of their children’s births will simply not go through the registration process, not because they are not aware of its importance, but because they cannot afford it.

These children will technically be stateless as they do not have proper documentation of their births. This problem will be aggravated when they grow older and reach schooling age. They can be denied enrolment in the education system.

Another likely thing is that the receipt of the information of births, normally issued by hospitals, maternity homes and clinics, could be misled. This would create problems when the need to register the births arises.

Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed stated that the penalty, to be imposed with immediate effect, was implemented after the amendment to the Births and Deaths Registration and Adoption Act (Act 299) was approved and passed by the Dewan Rakyat last year.

The intention of the amendment may be noble, good and right, but on the other hand, the interest and welfare of the rural poor need to be taken into account. The government needs to work on a mechanism to address this issue.

Just as in the medical services, where the government subsidises fees, it could either compound the fine or impose a nominal fine, or revert to the original fine, for the rural poor.

For this to be considered, certification from a community leader, senior government official or an elected representative should suffice to ascertain the “eligibility” of the rural poor to not pay a hefty fine.

I am surprised that none of the rural parliamentarians from Sarawak and Sabah objected to the amendment. This goes to show how insensitive they are to the hardship faced by the people when it comes to money. The little cash they have is barely enough for the upkeep of their families.

Maybe for Sarawak, the state government could consider crafting a mechanism to address this matter, in view of the graveness of the effect it will have on the rural population. – October 12, 2017.

* Edward Andrew Luwak is chairman of DAP’s Serian branch

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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