‘PRs should be given same rights as citizens’
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
PERMANENT Residents (PR) of Brunei should be treated on the same level as the citizens, not only on land and housing provisions but also in terms of employment, education and healthcare .
A number of Bruneians and PRs expressed their views in response to issues pertaining to PRs and their rights which was raised by Pehin Kapitan Lela Diraja Dato Paduka Goh King Chin, an elected member during the State Legislative Council (LegCo) Meeting on Saturday.
They said that PRs should also be considered as the country's assets in terms of human resources which are vital for the government to realise its vision of becoming the top 10 economies globally before 2035, especially those who are born and educated in the Sultanate.
Hj Nordin Salleh, a local, said that the PR issue is supposed to be cleared a long time ago but there has not even been a subtle change in ensuring their status. "I have friends who are deemed stateless even though they grew up, educated and even work or own businesses here in Brunei. These are my childhood friends for the past 50 years," he said.
"They have been complaining about their status but their calls are neglected. They had to use their company or a local's name to own a house. It could be just simply taken away from them as it is not under their name," he added.
Rahim Masdi, another local, said that he failed to see the difference between PRs and citizens as they speak the same language, go to the same schools and eat the same food.
"So why the difference in benefits?" he asked.
"The country needs more people. I hear that everyday in seminars or any campaigns, whereby the future of Brunei might be unstable if our human resource falter due to the low population. Aren't the PRs part of our country? Why can't they work for the government? We have the same education, why the difference," he said. However he was quick to point out that not all PR's are qualified for a government job due to low education.
"But I do not blame them as we locals get education for free but PRs have to pay for everything except maybe primary and secondary education," he remarked.
Wong, a PR, stated that he has lived in Brunei for nearly 38 years and is still currently holding a purple Identity Card.
He said he had tried to change his citizenship from stateless to Bruneian, but he has been rejected twice as the "citizen test" scores were too low as he wasn't fluent in Brunei-Malay language and did not recognise several of the cabinet members.
"I did not know one pehin's name so maybe that was why I was discredited from the (citizenship) test. How should I know all as there are a lot of pehins," he said adding that he could not confirm his theory to be true as the national registration has never told him the reason on why he failed.
Sumardi, another PR, said that it is his wishes to buy a house in the future, but it seems bleak now as he has no way to do so unless he has a company or local relatives.
So, he said he has decided to migrate elsewhere most probably to Australia just like a lot of his friends and family members. "Maybe I will feel more at home there as they treat immigrants with equality. Brunei is my home, where I grew up and I love this country to bits. But somehow, I still feel like a stranger," he said.
During the LegCo Meeting, Pehin Goh said that PRs should be treated fairly in terms of home and land ownership to prevent destitution amongst the PR's. It is also to give them a sense of belonging by the procurement of assets within the Sultanate.
He had also raised issues on easing regulations for application of citizenship for PRs during the 2007 and 2008 LegCo Meetings.
The Brunei Times