The new move will adversely affect the people of Sabah and Sarawak, especially those rural folks who live in the far-flung remote interior, says Sabah PKR women chief

KOTA KINABALU: The government should step up efforts to continue to educate the masses on the importance of birth registration instead of taking the easy way out of penalising them, Sabah PKR women chief Rahimah Majid said today.

She said this in objecting the government’s move to impose a fine of RM1,000 on parents who failed to register their children within 60 days of birth with immediate effect.

Prior to this, the National Registration Department (NRD) only imposed a fine of RM50 on parents for late registration of their children.

Rahimah, also the Kudat PKR division chief, said the move was “ill-conceived and oppressive”, and would affect the people of Sabah and Sarawak, especially those rural folks who live in the far-flung remote interior.

She also likened the said move to “rubbing salt in the wound” of those poor or low-income parents who are already struggling to make ends meet amidst the current economic downturn, and compounded by a goods and services tax (GST)-induced escalating cost of living.

“The fine of RM1,000 which is an increase of a whopping 2000% from RM50 previously is also more than the current minimum wage. Where and how are these poor parents going to find extra cash to register their children now?

“This will only discourage them to come forward to register their children and, inevitably causing them to become ‘refugees’ in their own homeland for the rest for their lives,” she said.

She said Putrajaya must consider the unique situation of Sabah and Sarawak where infrastructure development was still far lagging behind compared to Peninsular Malaysia.

This was among the reasons for a high rate of late birth registration in these two states as a majority of the rural villagers were poor to afford the transportation cost to go to the nearest town to register the birth of their children.

She added that the unique situation of Sabah and Sarawak was also the rationale behind the Integrated Mobile Court Programme which was initiated by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjun many years ago to reach out to the rural folks to assist them with late birth registration of their children.

“By right, birth registration should be the responsibility and part of the government services to the people since the government is collecting taxes from the people. It should not even impose the RM50 penalty in the first place,” she retorted.