MALAYSIA — A 65-year-old cancer patient in Lawas, Sarawak, is currently unable to travel to attend medical treatment in Miri, as her MyKad (Malaysian identity card) was confiscated by the National Registration Department (Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara, JPN) office.
Lina Samuel’s MyKad was seized when she attempted to change her address inWorder to vote in the 15th General Election held in November last year, according to local media The Borneo Post.
Aunt Lina, who is from the Lun Bawang group (an ethnic group found in Central Northern Borneo), was told by the officer from Lawas District’s JPN there that her MyKad was seized based on “orders from a superior”.
It was reported that she didn’t make a police report or complain to the JPN because she struggles with speaking in Bahasa Malaysia formally.
Since the seizure of her MyKad in November 2022, Aunt Lina has been unable to access to other governmental assistance and has been living without identification.
One disaster after another, she was diagnosed with colon cancer in February this year, on top of other health ailments.
No access to medical treatment without MyKad
Aunt Lina was supposed to attend a follow-up with specialists at Miri Hospital on 17 April, but without her MyKad, she is unable to cross the Brunei border to reach Miri from Lawas.
Although both Lawas town in Limbang Division and Miri are within Sarawak’s jurisdiction, they are separated by Brunei. People from both places need to cross the Brunei border when travelling by land, requiring a valid official document to be presented when crossing the border.
She will also need to hold a valid MyKad if she intends to travel to Miri by flight.
Sarawak’s rural health activist, Agnes Padan, has called on Malaysia’s Home Minister to investigate the matter and condemned the JPN for confiscating Aunt Lina’s MyKad without a valid reason.
She questioned: “How is she going to travel to Miri Hospital for her follow-up when she does not have her MyKad? She cannot travel by land or air.”
The activist added that Lina’s children are allegedly stateless and unable to find permanent jobs, making it difficult for them to assist their mother with the expensive medical fees.
Malaysia’s Home Minister said the cancer patient not M’sian citizen
According to a report by Malaysiakini, Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail claimed that Aunt Lina’s MyKad was seized by the JPN because they found out that she is allegedly an Indonesian citizen.
The birth certificates of her children supposedly showed that she holds Indonesian nationality.
However, the case is still under investigation, and they plan to meet with Aunt Lina soon.
Lawyers for Liberty: the seizure of individual’s IC “unlawful and unconstitutional”
Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), a Malaysian law group, condemned the JPN’s seizure of Aunt Lina’s NRIC, stating that it was an unlawful and unconstitutional act.
“Irrespective of whatever “investigation” that purportedly was conducted on this case, they have no authority to summarily confiscate anyone’s NRIC.”
“It is a serious abuse of power as it an act that deprives victims of their citizenship and their rights attached to it, ” LFL director Zaid Malek said in a statement issued on Tuesday (12 April).
Citing Article 27 of the Federal Constitution, which lays out procedures for the government to follow if they wish to strip someone of their citizenship, Malek noted that the JPN had failed to comply with these rules.
He also pointed out that under Article 26B, no one could be deprived of their citizenship if it would result in statelessness.
“Yet her NRIC was taken away and her rights are now affected, most worrying of which was her right to get treatment for cancer at government hospitals. This could result in her death due to denial of treatment.”
Malek accused the Home Minister of defending a blatantly unconstitutional act by the JPN, and of failing to ensure that the department was abiding by the law.
“We strongly urge the government to return the woman’s NRIC to her as it is her right to hold it until and unless an order of deprivation of citizenship is made in compliance with the Constitution. ”
Sarawak Health Department assures medical treatment for the elderly patient despite confiscated MyKad
Meanwhile, Sarawak Health director Dr Ooi Choo Huck has stated that regardless of the patient’s MyKad registration status and nationality, the department will continue to provide medical services to the patient.
He issued a statement on Tuesday (12 Apr) regarding the media report of Aunt Lina who faced difficulties receiving medical treatment at the hospital due to her MyKad being confiscated by JPN.
He said the cancer patient is currently receiving treatment and supervision from a surgical specialist at the Miri Hospital.
“Miri Hospital has provided the patient with multiple treatments, including an imaging examination on 15 February this year, surgery on 17 February, and a follow-up imaging examination on 20 March,” Dr Ooi said.
He added that Miri Hospital has provided appropriate services to the patient in terms of treatment and examination. In fact, the patient has made an appointment to visit the hospital’s specialist clinic for follow-up treatment on 17 April.
“On 1 April, the patient also received treatment at the emergency and trauma department of the Lawas Hospital and was referred to the duty medical personnel for appropriate treatment after examination,” he said.
Dr Ooi said the Sarawak Health Department has also contacted the patient’s daughter to confirm that both the Lawas and Miri hospitals have never refused to treat her mother.