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Sarawak Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah. — Borneo Post Online
Sarawak Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah. — Borneo Post Online

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KUCHING, Aug 24 ­— Sarawak’s birth registration rate has fallen by about 50.45 per cent from January to July this year compared to the corresponding period in 2020, said state Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah.

Fatimah disclosed that a total of 13,031 newborn registrations were registered from January to July this year with the status ‘K’ in their identification card compared with 26,298 birth registrations reported in the same period last year.

“The birth rate seems to be declining and we are quite concerned. If the declining rate continues, Sarawak is at risk of becoming an aged state faster than other states,” she said during a press conference at her office in Baitulmakmur II building, Petra Jaya here yesterday.

This showed that a ‘baby boom’ had not occurred as a result of the movement control order (MCO) implemented due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she added.

A meeting chaired by Fatimah was held before the press conference to deliberate on matters concerning birth and death registrations, issues related to identification documents, family and population development, and the Covid-19 pandemic impacts on birth rate.

Fatimah told the press a discussion was held with the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN), Sarawak (LPPKN) to address the issue of declining rate of birth and to propose solutions.

For the whole of 2020, Fatimah said there were 31,176 birth registrations with the status ‘K’ in the state, a decrease of about 8.2 per cent when compared with the 33,304 newborns registered in 2019.

Including newborns without the status ‘K’, there were 36,117 births registered in 2019, 33,964 births in 2020 and 14,393 births between January and July 31 this year.

Besides that, Fatimah said statistics from the National Registration Department (JPN) Sarawak had shown that 14,518 deaths were reported in 2020, an increase of 1.02 per cent from the 14,371 deaths reported in 2019.

As for the period from January to April this year, there were 3,297 deaths registered with the department in the state.

From May 2020 to April this year, the department had registered 14,505 deaths, an increase of 11.53 per cent compared with the 13,005 deaths in the same period from 2019 to 2020.

“During the period of MCO between March 2020 and April this year, the State Disaster Management Committee had reported 178 deaths due to Covid-19, constituting about 1.2 per cent of the total deaths registered in the state in the same period.

On a related matter, Fatimah urged parents to properly register their marriage so that children born of their marriage will not be stateless, especially if the mother is a foreign national.

“If a marriage has not been properly registered with the department, the citizenship status of a child will depend on the citizenship of the mother. If the mother is a foreigner, then the child will become stateless.”

The minister said citizenship application can be submitted under Section 15A of the Federal Constitution for the child once the marriage has been properly registered.

To be eligible for citizenship, the applicant must be aged below 21 and present in person before the Registrar when submitting the application.

Reasons for application in special circumstances need to be stated in column F and paragraph A in the application. The application needs to be submitted by one of the parents or a person with relationship to the family.

“For cases where the children’s citizenship status has not been determined, JPN Sarawak will bring the issue to Sarawak Social Development Council before submitting to the federal government to seek a solution.”

On the issue of people from the Bumiputera community not having their identification document, Fatimah said JPN will readily assist them through the relevant laws and Constitution.

“JPN Sarawak has constantly offered its service in the interior through their Menyemai Kasih Rakyat (Mekar) teams and they currently have six units in Kuching, Bintulu, Sibu, Sri Aman, Kapit and Miri,” said Fatimah. — Borneo Post Online

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