Opposition slams RM1k birth registration fine as burden on the poor

Opposition politicians have questioned whether the Home Ministry’s move to impose an RM1,000 fine on late birth registrations is according to law.

They went on to suggest alternative solutions and also warning that such a high fine would burden the poor and result in more stateless children.

DAP Serian chairperson Edward Andrew Luwak said the rural poor should be given exceptions on the penalties.

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

“For this to be considered, a certification from the community leader, a senior government official or an elected representative should suffice to ascertain the eligibility of the rural poor from paying the hefty fine,” Edward said in a statement today.

Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed (photo) announced yesterday that the ministry’s decision to increase the penalty from the previous RM50, effective from Tuesday this week, came after the time frame given to register births was extended from 42 days to 60 days in August. The fine will be imposed in Peninsula Malaysia only.

“The government has made a decision (to increase the penalties) after the amendments to the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1957 and the Adoption Act 1952, approved and passed by the Dewan Rakyat last year, which also stipulate that all births must be registered within 60 days, including illegitimate babies,” Bernama reported Nur Jazlan as saying.

He later explained that the decision had been made to pressure parents to register their children promptly and avoid documentation problems that would lead to statelessness.

However, Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin (photo) contended that the National Registry Department (NRD) has “no authority” to enforce the penalty as it is not gazetted in law.

“The Act, with its new amendments… does not specify the penalties imposed with regards to late registration under Section 12 of the Act.

“Although the amendments were passed last year, the references made to penalties are vague and cannot be imposed merely on the word of the deputy home minister.

“This is a serious matter, which must be debated in Parliament as it affects every Malaysian,” Zuraida said in a statement today.

Fines will burden the poor

Comparing the increased fine to the minimum monthly wage set by the government for Peninsular Malaysia, which is also RM1,000, Zuraida said the new ruling would constitute an additional burden on the poor.

“As a parliamentarian, I would have failed in my duty if I do not strongly oppose this brute matter the Home Ministry is using to impose, burden and financially rob the rakyat of a constitutional right to register births without having to worry about heavy penalties.

“The NRD should instead educate, encourage and facilitate the public to make the registration of births less cumbersome.

“The inability to effectively register births is indicative of a failed system, which we must overcome with good governance and with not stiffer penalties,” added the PKR Wanita chief.

Meanwhile, Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching (photo) also warned that such a policy would not resolve the problem but instead result in more stateless children.

“The NRD must first do an analysis to find out the reason behind late registration. Is it laziness, irresponsibility, illiteracy or poverty? If illiteracy and/or poverty are the reason behind the late registration of births, imposing a higher penalty is not going to solve the problem.

“What will happen to children whose parents cannot afford to pay the fine of RM1,000? Will the registration be rejected completely and render these children stateless?” Teo asked in a statement.

Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi revealed in October last year that there are 290,437 stateless children in Malaysia below the age of 18. Many had parents from Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar.


Artikel disiar pada October 12, 2017 - 2:58 pm oleh Susan Loo

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