August 11, 2012
Royal Commission: Getting to the Bottom of the Illegal Immigrants Issue
THE much-awaited investigation into the influx of illegal immigrants into Sabah and the allegations that some of them have been granted citizenship and registered as voters is set to start in earnest.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is expected to reveal the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the recently formed Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) entrusted with the task of probing the matter when he visits Sabah today.
Described as the “mother of all problems” in Sabah, the illegal immigrants’ issue has been haunting the state for decades and a comprehensive effort to get to the root of the problem would be a major boost to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN).
With the general election expected to be called soon, the investigation by the RCI would be crucial for BN to further gain the confidence and trust of the people. The BN government’s seriousness in tackling the matter will be key to maintaining its stronghold, Sabah.
It has to be noted that the opposition in Sabah has been playing up the illegal immigrants’ issue to garner support, accusing the government of not being serious in finding a solution.
Najib had announced the RCI on June 1 following fresh requests from state BN component parties. The influx of illegal immigrants has been a longstanding problem in Sabah, and frequently blamed for the social, economic and security problems in the state.
According to figures made available in Parliament last year, Sabah’s population in 1970 was 651,304 and grew to 929,299 a decade later. Two decades later, the state’s population rose significantly by a staggering 1.5 million people to 2,468,246 in 2000.
In 2010, this number was estimated to have grown to 3.12 million, with foreigners allegedly making up a sizeable 27 per cent or 889,799 of the population.
The opposition, particularly Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, has been taking advantage of the issue.
It was also one of the main reasons given by Tuaran member of parliament Datuk Seri Wilfred Mojilip Bumburing and Beaufort MP Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin for leaving BN recently to align themselves with the opposition.
Perhaps Sabahans should be wary of Anwar’s rhetoric on the issue, considering that he was “quiet” about it when he was the Deputy Prime minister.
In fact, whenever the issue was raised, Anwar had then vehemently denied that foreigners were given citizenship and registered as voters.To understand Anwar’s true colour, Sabahans should revisit the major issues raised by Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), which was then in the opposition, in the 1994 state election in which Anwar was BN’s director of operations.
PBS had during and after the 1994 election complained about illegal immigrants being registered as voters, commonly known as “phantom voters”. Anwar chose to turn a deaf ear, but now he is portraying himself as Sabah’s hope for getting rid of the problem.
Little wonder that Sabahans, with the exception of Bumburing and Lajim’s supporters, see Anwar as nothing more than a political chameleon out to fool them.
Unlike Anwar, PBS, although it is now back in the BN coalition, has been consistent in raising the matter. And it is not just PBS which has been vocal on the issue. Other BN component parties, particularly the United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation, Liberal Democratic Party and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah have never wavered in pushing for the RCI to be set up.
While Anwar and his newfound allies in Bumburing and Lajim continue with their rhetoric on the issue, the BN government is taking steps to deal with the matter.
The understanding and cooperation between the state government under Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman’s leadership and Najib-led Federal Government have paved the way for a conducive working relationship to address the problems affecting Sabah and its people.
Sabahans have Najib to thank for listening to their views and for walking the talk by making the RCI a reality.
It is hoped that the ToR for the RCI will be all-encompassing, leaving no stones unturned in the course of the investigation.The Prime Minister’s strong political will to deal with this contentious issue should see Sabah remain as the BN’s fixed deposit in the coming general elections.