Time for PR legislation to change: public

Saturday, March 20, 2010

SEVERAL permanent residents (PRs) have voiced their disappointment over the lack of progress over their status, an issue recently discussed during a session of the ongoing Sixth Legislative Council (LegCo).

During a LegCo meeting on Thursday, the Minister of Home Affairs, Pehin Orang Kaya Johan Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Adanan Begawan Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Seri Setia Haji Mohd Yusof stated that between 1962 to 2009, 7,505 permanent residents were successful in being granted citizenship after passing written and oral tests.

Hj Ridha Hj Abdul Rahim, an accountant for a local IT company, said he thought the statistics were "misleading".

"Seven thousand sounds like a lot of people, but when you look closely, that's over a 48-year span. Seven thousand PRs granted citizenship in 48 years. Are they really proud of that?"

"The statistics they should really state is how many people applied (for citizenship) but were rejected. I think it would tell a very different story," he said.

State Legislative Council (LegCo) member Pehin Kapitan Lela Diraja Dato Paduka Goh King Chin said Thursday that, by right, the government should not impose the need for re-entry permits and re-entry visas on Bruneian-born PRs.

He also proposed changing the "Certificate of Identity Brunei Darussalam" to "Certificate of Identity Brunei Darussalam Protected Person" to "upgrade the status of local-born PRs to international status."

Suzani, whose mother is a Bruneian citizen and father is a Bruneian PR, holds the "Certificate of Identity Brunei Darussalam", what is commonly regarded as a "stateless" person. "Everywhere I go I have to apply for a visa because I am a citizen of no country," said the 30-year-old mother.

Suzani said the proposal to change"Certificate of Identity Brunei Darussalam" to "Certificate of Identity Brunei Darussalam Protected Person" was "insulting", saying that is likens her status to that of an asylum seeker.

"I have to pay $60 every year for my re-entry permit, it's inconvenient and it's unfair. If I'm truly a PR why do I need a permit to come back into the country?" she said.

"Since His Majesty changed the rules allowing Bruneian women to pass on their citizenship to their children, I should be able to go to the immigration department and automatically be able to get a Bruneian passport. Why do I have to bother going through a long, drawn-out application process?"

Hafiz Hj Mohd Tahir, 20, who is also the child of a Bruneian woman, agreed with Suzani saying that he had to wait four years to be granted citizenship.

"My mother applied on my behalf when I was sixteen because I was still a minor. It was three years until we heard anything and then finally a letter came from the Department of Immigration. It took another year to get the certificate of citizenship from them, and only then I could go to the immigration counter and apply for my IC and passport," said the university student.

Hafiz added: "If His Majesty has already given his consent for us to be entitled to citizenship by virtue of our birth, then why make it such an arduous process? We should now be able to go to the immigration counter and get our passport like people whose fathers are Bruneian citizens."

Ayesha Hj Noordin, a Bruneian-born PR who was made a citizen a year ago, said she feels that current PR legislation discriminates against women. "I am so happy now that I have a yellow IC. It has made my life infinitely easier," said the private school teacher. "But even though I am a citizen now, in the future when I have kids I will still have to apply for (Bruneian) citizenship for them. Children of Bruneian men don't have to do that. Where is the fairness?"

Aida Idris, another Bruneian-born resident, said that even though she was born and raised here, she still cannot apply for PR because neither of her parents hold Brunei passports. "Even though I'm married to a Bruneian, and can apply for PR through him, I should be recognised in my own right, but I still have to wait years to become a Bruneian," she said.

Aida added it is a hassle to have to renew her work visa every two years and she will apply for permanent residency to make her life easier.

Nurul Adilah Iskandar, 26,, she doesn't feel being acknowledged by the country of her birth. "Even though both my parents are not citizens, I was born here, I was raised here, educated here and now I work here and yet I am still not entitled to call myself a Bruneian. Many people would just get up and leave, maybe migrate somewhere else but at the end of the day, this country is still my home but I still feel like a second class citizen," she said.

"People like me, we provide a service to the community, we have skills and we're using them to help the economy in Brunei, that should be recognised in its own right."

The Brunei Times