32 receive their ‘citizenship’

(NST) LUBOK ANTU: A birth certificate is nothing but a piece of paper for those living in the interior as everyone knows each other.

Yesterday, 32 people in Batang Ai were finally recognised as Malaysians after receiving their birth certificate from the National Registration Department.

The oldest recipient, Awa Jimbau, 55, from Ng Mengkak, Ulu Engkari doesn't even know her true age.

"I cannot remember when I was born, because we never knew how important a birth certificate was then."

Awa, who assumed 1954 as the year of her birth, was elated to know that she is finally a citizen upon receiving her birth certificate from Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar at the Kaong Ili longhouse yesterday.

Most of the recipients said they realised the difficulty of not having a nationality when they sought treatment at the government medical centres.

"We have to pay extra as we are treated as foreigners, though we have been living in the village long before Merdeka.

"I am glad that all that is over with this birth certificate," said Junit Jalani, 46, from Nanga Jambu Lemanak.

Of the 38 people who were supposed to receive their birth certificates yesterday, only 32 were present. The youngest recipient was 9 years old.

Many took an eight-hour boat ride to receive their birth certificates yesterday.

Syed Hamid said the NRD would have difficulty in issuing documents to applicants when they are old.

"The older they get the longer the time needed to verify their actual status."

The NRD, from their Special Mobile Unit, received 19,447 applications from interior folk since 2004.

Syed Hamid said there were many others in the country who were not registered as citizens.

However, their numbers remain unknown.