On the evening of April 7, a terribly upset young couple walked into my surgery. Earlier in the day, they had an altercation with the staff of the National Registration Department (JPN) at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
The woman was 18 years old and her husband 24 years old. On April 1, she delivered a baby girl weighing 1.4 kg. She was so tiny she had to be put in an incubator. On the day in question, they had gone to visit their baby with a couple of friends. After that the whole group went to the JPN office to register the baby's birth.
The counter staff scrutinised their marriage certificate and after doing some arithmetic, publicly announced the baby was conceived out of wedlock. As such only the baby's name and the mother's name could be entered in the register.
In the space for father's particulars shall be written 'Information not Available'. In the baby's MyKid identity card shall be entered baby's name followed by ‘bin or binti Abdullah’.
The couple refused to register the baby. They were so upset and humiliated. The baby has since died of prematurity. She never had a birth certificate.
After enquiring from several JPN offices at various places, I learnt that the director-general of JPN had issued an internal circular on July 6, 2007 to the effect that JPN should ‘look out’ for illegitimate Malay children and that they be labelled, accordingly, ‘bin Abdullah’ or ‘binti Abdullah’.
From that day many babies do not have their father's names on their birth certificates.
The question that comes to my mind is WHY? In seven years time, when these children go to school they would be subjected to taunts, ridicule and shame. Not to mention the distress , anxiety and pain of the fathers at not seeing their names in such an important document. Why is the JPN inflicting such suffering onto so many people? Who authorised them to be the ‘Guardian of Public Morals’?
In my 14 years of running a maternity practice, I have seen so many government rules come and go. There have been good ones and not so good ones. But the present rule takes the cake. It makes it very hard to register births. Requirements to register births are so stringent that many babies are not registered. Ironically, rulings created today would only create problems for JPN later on.
Previously, any form of identification of the mother would do eg, the marriage certificate. Now she must produce a non-expired passport and a valid visa. It is a common knowledge that runaway migrant workers do not have those. Without birth certificates, the babies are not adoptable. So babies end up in garbage dumps and the like.
And JPN only recognises marriage certificates issued in Malaysia. Many Malaysian men went to Indonesia and brought back young brides. Their children are all 'bin/ binti Abdullah'.
Marriage certificates are not a must to register the birth of a baby. All that is required is both mother and father sign a declaration at the back of Borang JPN.LM01 (known as Section 13 ) in front of a JPN official. This is provided for by the law.
This provision was taken away from Muslims by JPN from July 2007. As far as I know, this provision in the law has not been amended or withdrawn. The fact that JPN could issue a circular counter to the law is something that should be looked into.
Children are our future. They should be protected. Religious zealots in the civil service should be identified and given the boot.