KOTA KINABALU August 10, 2012: Former prime minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s statement defending the granting of Malaysian citizenship to migrants has riled many Sabahans and caused dismay among some Barisan Nasional leaders.
United Pasokmomogun KadazanDusun Murut Organization (UPKO) information chief Datuk Donald Mojuntin said the party and genuine Sabahans are very disappointed with and angered by the “insensitive” statement by Tun Mahathir.
“With due respect to him (Mahathir), he seems to be confusing legal migrants with illegal immigrants who are holding legal Malaysian identification documents,” the Moyog assemblyman said “Legal migrants are those foreigners who enter Malaysia legally with the requisite visa or work permit endorsed on their passports from their respective countries of origin and later decide to apply for Malaysian citizenship. Illegal immigrants are those that enter Malaysia without any passports or travel documentations,” Donald pointed out.
“In Sabah, we are worried and concerned about illegal immigrants who obtain valid Malaysian identity cards through dubious means and in a relatively short span of time. We are very concerned with its direct correlation to the extraordinary increase in Sabah’s population between the period of 1970 to 2005.
“Some foreigners especially from the Philippines have actually admitted in Sabah’s local newspapers that they obtained their Malaysian identity cards through what is called ‘Projek IC’, with photographs of them proudly holding up their cards,” Donald said.
He said that in the 1999 Likas Election Petition case at the Kota Kinabalu High Court, a Filipino by the name of Fuad Ari from the island of Tawi-Tawi gave a court statement that he obtained his Malaysian identity card through ‘Projek IC’.
Furthermore, another witness, Hassnar Ibrahim, admitted in the same case that he was directly involved in ‘Projek IC’. Various books have been written about the existence of “Projek IC”, notably the ones by MD Mutalib, he said.
“Since the 1980s, there have been so many Sabahans from the grassroots level to community and political leaders voicing their concerns about this issue. This is a real and serious issue that affects the lives of genuine Malaysian citizens in Sabah and the problem may have already seeped to the Peninsular Malaysia. It concerns national security, economic and job opportunities as well as health issues. It has tarnished our electoral rolls.
“This is the reason why UPKO has persistently pushed for the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the existence of ‘Projek IC’ as well as the extraordinary population increase in Sabah.
“It is a great pity that some leaders still seem oblivious or even ignorant to the prevailing concerns of Sabahans, irrespective of race or religion, with regard to this issue. As one of our top police brass, Datuk Seri Bakri Zinin, puts it, “the illegal immigrants are the mother of all problems in Sabah”. Until today, it still is,” he stressed.
According to Donald, that is why Sabahans are happy that at last, a Malaysian Prime Minister has finally agreed to the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate this matter.
“We hope that the terms of reference to be announced by our Premier Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, would be comprehensive enough to adequately address the problem and to allow for a thorough investigation. Equally important is the composition of the panel of Commissioners. They must be of the highest integrity and above reproach,” he said.
UPKO vice president Datuk Wences Angang said it is not wrong to issue Malaysian citizenship through legal means to those who deserve it, but it is morally and politically wrong to grant citizenship to foreigners who entered the country through illegal means, and legally wrong to grant citizenship to foreigners with refugees status.
“But somehow, there are foreigners who are qualified to be granted such citizenship and given Malaysian IC, who have been waiting for their citizenship applications to be approved but have not been approved for reason not specifically stated by the approving authorities,” he said.
Wences said that under the 20-points agreement, which is the basis of the Malaysia Agreement 1963, though NRIC issues are under federal matters, the state authorities must be consulted when approving citizenship to foreigners.
He said the granting of citizenship must be purely on constitutional grounds and not “mass issuance” of ICs by the authorities as such move can be seen as more politically motivated.
“Surprisingly, question arises as to why Tun Dr. Mahathir has been mum on this issue all these years since he stepped down as Prime Minister and now he suddenly voiced his strong support for the granting of citizenship to the huge number of foreigners just when the current Prime Minister is coming over Sabah to formally announce the formation of RCI.
“It seems as though Dr. M is trying to block the formation of RCI to investigate the illegal immigrant issues. That being the case, the content of the book by Mutalib, “PROJECT IC: AGENDA TERSEMBUNYI MAHATHIR” has a lot of truth in it and ought to be presented to the RCI as part of the evidences to support the allegation that the granting of citizenship and issuance of MyKad to foreign citizens contain sinister political agendas that started during the Mahathir era,” Wences claimed.
“Nevertheless, with the high expectation and high hope from the visit by the Prime Minister to shed more light on the formation and implementation of RCI, the statement of Dr. M is an anti-climax of the visit by the PM, as well as the impending announcement and implementation of the RCI by him,” he opined.
“Along these lines, we have high confidence that the Prime Minister will eventually and formally announce the formation of the RCI despite the distraction and other issues raised by certain political leaders who seem to be trying to block the formation of the RCI, including Tun Dr. Mahathir.
“I suggest he (Tun Dr. Mahathir) should just retire peacefully and let the Prime Minister run the administration of this country without any outside interference,” he said.
Meanwhile, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) Youth chief Datuk Jahid Jahim said the movement regretted Mahathir’s statement as the granting of Malaysian citizenship though the method mentioned by the former Prime Minister is against the Constitution and sovereign law of the country.
“If an individual is an illegal immigrant in Malaysia, it doesn’t matter how long that person has been residing in the country or how fluent he or she is in Malay, that person is not eligible to be granted Malaysian citrizenship,” he stressed.
PBS Youth, according to Jahid, strongly objected to the way Mahathir says the migrants in Sabah should be granted citizenship.
“It is totally wrong and unconstitutional as these people are illegal immigrants… we do not object to those who come to Sabah legally and apply for citizenship through the proper channel but we are against them being granted the right to be Malaysians just because they have lived here for a long time and can speak Malay fluently,” the Assistant Youth and Sport Minister said.
“What is the basis of processing a citizenship application without proper documentation? There is no country in the world that practices what Mahathir is saying because doing so would be detrimental to the future of the genuine citizens, especially to their future generation,” Jahid stressed.
According to the Tamparuli assemblyman, Mahathir’s latest statement has resulted in the younger generation thinking whether he has played any hidden role in the incredible population boom in Sabah.
Jahid was of the opinion that Mahathir should instead support the hard work under Najib’s leadership to resolve the issue of illegal immigrants not only in Sabah but also throughout the country.
Mahathir, he added, should stop issuing statements that will further hurt Sabahans who have been plagued by the issue which has been described as ‘mother of all problems’.
by Nancy Lai