Iban-Chinese schoolgirl in limbo over Bumi status; ministry ascertains her as non-native, throws out application to do matriculation
Getting her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) result was the best — and the worst — thing that could happen to Marina Undau.The 18-year-old science stream student of SMK Simanggang scored 9As and 1B in the SPM examination last year.
She thought she was on her way to university, especially being a Bumiputera and all, but that was not to be.
Born to an Iban father and a Chinese mother, Marina’s life was turned upside down when her application to undergo a university matriculation programme was rejected by the Ministry of Education. The ministry determined that she is not a ‘Bumiputera’.
Her dreams were crushed and in the process, she lost a part of her identity and the drive that made her a top scorer.
The Borneo Post met Marina at her house in Sri Aman yesterday.
Seated between her parents, Undau Liap and Wong Pick Sing, the disappointment in the teenager was obvious.
Speaking in Iban, she said: “Aku amai enda puas ati nadai olih nyambung sekula ngagai universiti (I’m very sad that I can’t pursue my university education).”
With no chance of entering a university for now, Marina has started Form 6 in her old school.
Asked what she thought of everything that was happening, she replied: “What worries me is that will this happen again when I pass my STPM next year? If I get good results, what’s next?” What confuses Marina even more is how her elder sister could further her studies in Universiti Sains Malaysia in Pulau Pinang, where she is now in her second year, without ever having her identity questioned.
When Marina’s application was rejected, Undau contacted the Education Ministry’s Matriculation Department in Putrajaya on June 23 and was told that her daughter was not a ‘Bumiputera’.
Dissatisfied, the father, a government servant, wrote to the ministry on July 1 and the reply he got shocked him, and it is bound to challenge the identity of many Sarawakians who are born of mixed-parentage.
The ministry said in a reply on July 14 that Unau’s appeal was turned down because “the candidate is categorised as non-Bumiputera (father is Iban and mother is Chinese)” based on a definition used by the Student Intake Management Division, Higher Learning Department and Higher Education Ministry.
Their definition is as follows:
• Semenanjung – “Jika salah seorang ibu atau bapa calon adalah seorang Melayu yang beragama Islam/Orang Asli seperti mana yang ditakrifkan dalam Perkara 160(2) Perlembagaan Persekutuan; maka anaknya adalah dianggap seorang Bumiputera.” (If either parent of a candidate is a Malay who is a Muslim/Orang Asli as defined in Article 160 (2) of the Federal Constitution, the child is considered a Bumiputera.)
• Sabah – “Jika bapa calon adalah seorang Melayu yang beragama Islam/Peribumi Sabah seperti yang ditakrifkan dalam Perkara 161A(6)(a) Perlembagaan Persekutuan; maka anaknya adalah dianggap seorang Bumiputera.” (If the father of the candidate is a Malay who is a Muslim/native of Sabah as defined by Article 161A(6)(a) of the Federal Constitution, the child is considered a Bumiputera.)
• Sarawak – “Jika bapa dan ibu adalah seorang Peribumi Sarawak seperti mana yang ditakrifkan dalam Perkara 161A(6)(b) Perlembagaan persekutuan; maka anaknya adalah dianggap seorang Bumiputera.” (If the father and mother is a native of Sarawak as defined under Article 161A(6)(b) of the Federal Constitution, the child is considered a Bumiputera).
Undau could not accept the explanation given by the ministry and he hoped that the government would seriously look into education issues that involve Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera status.
“Is this what we call the 1Malaysia concept? Why all the differences in the intake of students for higher learning. I am not questioning the constitution, but what is the meaning of 1Malaysia if things like this happen?” Unau asked.
A check with the National Registration Department (NRD) headquarters here revealed that there have been numerous enquiries about the Bumiputera status of late.
A staff said she was somewhat surprised because no one had asked until recently.
A spokesperson for the NRD here said that in Sarawak, if a person is born to an Iban and his mother is Chinese, he is registered as an Iban according to the race of his father.
Asked if such a person is automatically accorded Bumiputera rights, the spokesperson said: “We don’t actually handle that. We look at the race of the father. If the father is Iban, the child is Iban. If the father is Chinese, the child is Chinese. The Bumiputera status comes under the Native Court.”
Native Court Registrar Ronnie Edward, when contacted, said the Bumiputera status was a ‘birthright’ and the Native Court only hear cases where a person who was to be declared a Bumiputera although his father was not a native.
He said there had been others who had suffered the same fate as Marina and it all boiled down to the Federal Constitution.
“I think to solve this problem. Article 161(A) of the Federal Constitution has to be amended. The article says that in Sarawak, both parents have to be ‘exclusively’ a native,” Ronnie said.
Borneo Post Online 1/11/09