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Sunday, August 8, 2010



SABAHANS from all walks of life want the 1.7 million illegal immigrants and foreign workers in the state who outnumber the 1.5 million Sabahans to be seen as a national priority.

This follows a statement in Kota Kinabalu earlier this week by Idris Jala, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, on the federal perception of the problem.

According to Idris, the illegal immigrants in Sabah have not been included in the National Key Results Area (NKRA), "because it was not what the majority of the nation wanted".

The NKRA, along with Key Performance Indexes (KPI), are part of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP).

"This is a grave mistake. This is the mother of all problems," fumed United PasokMomogun KadazanDusunMurut Organisation (Upko) Deputy President, Datuk Wilfred Molijip Bumburing.

"The issue has brought about negative effects in every strata of life in Sabah be it social, cultural, health, security, educational or economic."

Wilfred in fact thinks that the illegals in Sabah should top the NKRA list which at the moment has only six areas viz. corruption, crime, poverty, education, basic rural infrastructure and urban public transport.

At the same time, he wants a state NKRA on the issue as well to address the roots of the problem.

He noted that despite being excluded from the NKRA, the issue of the Sabah illegals has been the focus of a laboratory set up especially in the state. He called on Idris to release the findings of the lab as soon as possible for the information of the public.

"The federal government should get its priorities right, he added. "At the moment, it is more concerned about the 20 Afghans who fled a detention centre in Kuala Lumpur and not about the large number of illegals in Sabah."

'A nightmare situation in 30 years time'

Wilfred, who is also Tuaran MP, warned that inaction on the part of the federal government in tackling the influx of illegals will create a nightmare situation in 30 years time.

"It's not inconceivable that the descendents of the illegal immigrants would petition the United Nations for a referendum in Sabah on their status," warned Wilfred.

"After all, Malaysia is still paying RM5,300 every year to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu for the eastern and northern third of Sabah."

Wilfred has tried to seek an explanation and clarification several times on the annual payment in Parliament only to run into a stone wall of unsatisfactory explanations. However he isn't going to stop trying.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) senior activist Dr Chong Eng Leong, who has written a book on illegal immigrants in Sabah, likewise is appalled that the issue is not considered important enough for inclusion in the NKRA.

"No issue in Sabah is more important for us," said Dr Chong. "These foreigners have very much upset our politics and are a serious threat to our security, sovereignty and territorial integrity."

He also wants an explanation why the Federal Cabinet Committee on Illegal Immigrants in Sabah has met only once after it was set up in 2000 by then prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. It's now chaired by his successor Najib Abdul Razak but is yet to meet.

PKR Vice-President, Dr Jeffrey @ Gapari Kitingan does not expect the federal government to tackle the illegal immigrant problem "since it is considered the electoral fixed deposit of the ruling BN".

"Those responsible for this problem in Sabah have committed treason," said Jeffrey. "Yet it is not considered serious enough to be included in the NKRA."

'Local Muslims losing out'

He claimed that the local Muslim population is losing out the most in business and job opportunities to the illegal immigrants who try to pass off as locals. Some of them, according to him, have even made it as state assemblypersons and MPs, besides holding many government positions. This, he predicted, will cost UMNO dearly when the next general election is held.

"Everyone in Sabah knows who these people are and where they are. I need not mention names," said Jeffrey. "This is the direct result of illegal immigrants getting MyKads over the years and getting on the electoral rolls."

He called on UPKO and the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) not to cling to Sabah UMNO which is reluctant to see an end to this problem which has dragged on for the last 40 years.

PBS secretary-general Henrynus Amin reiterated that the party was behind Joseph Pairin Kitingan's call that the illegal immigrants in Sabah must leave the state by 2012.

He declined to say what the party's options would be if the deadline is not met, merely adding that "we will cross that bridge when we come to it".

"We know that the opposition is exploiting this issue and fuelling public fears," said Henrynus. "We will not be put off by the negative sentiment and bad press against us."

He pledged that the party would persist until it has uprooted the problem of illegal immigrants once and for all.

'Redistribute illegal immigrants'

Former Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) vice-chairperson Simon Sipaun, when contacted on Idris's statement, felt that the latter had honestly disclosed the federal government's thinking on the matter. Even so, he thinks that Idris should advise the federal government on the right approach.

"I see no end to this problem in Sabah unless the burden is shared equally by all the states in peninsular Malaysia," reiterated Sipaun.

"It was the federal government that created this problem. So, they must help to solve it by redistributing the illegal immigrants in Sabah."

Meanwhile, the Indonesian consulate-general in Kota Kinabalu disclosed that it is trying its best to help reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the state from Indonesia.

"We have issued 217,000 passports to illegal immigrants in Sabah during the amnesty exercise from July to October last year," said Teguh Wardoyo, the director of the Protection of Indonesian Citizens and Legal Entities Directorate.

"We are willing to cooperate with the authorities in Sabah so that our citizens can live and work here legally."

He added that 1.2 million Indonesian citizens were working and living in Malaysia legally.

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