The RCI on illegal immigrants in Sabah may just be a ruse to win over voters.
Joe Fernandez, FMT
There may be some method in Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s madness, after all, if the just-announced Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) in Sabah is used to wrest the proverbial victory out of the jaws of looming defeat for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) in the state.
Alternatively, he courts disaster if he doesn’t mean what he says and is not saying what he means. The state will turn in frustration to the opposition and the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Sabahans will suspect the worst if the RCI goes through the sham of a public inquiry.
There’s no need for over-emphasis on a public inquiry since nothing can come out of it except piecemeal solutions, which will simply increase the political frustration level in Sabah.
Instead, what’s needed is for the Home Minister to take the cue from the Prime Minister and direct the National Registration Department (JPN) and Election Commission (EC) in Sabah and Putrajaya to allow the RCI to access their respective data banks.
Too many things can go wrong in Sabah especially when the people in the state are baying for blood.
For example, it will come as “the mother of all shocks” if the federal government claims via the RCI that most of the foreigners given out “citizenships” in Sabah are in fact stateless people and therefore “there’s no problem”. This would be politically unacceptable. No foreigner in Sabah can be given citizenship without the prior recommendation of the state government as the initiating party on a case-by-case basis.
If the federal government by-passes the state government, the people affected would not be considered Sabahans but Peninsular Malaysians subject to the Immigration Act unless they acquire permanent residence, which would be politically impossible to grant. The lack of permanent residence status, however, would not prevent such people from voting in the state.
Forensic experts will be needed to help the RCI to determine and weed out all JPN MyKads which are a nullity in law from the very beginning. The RCI’s 8-point terms of reference may be vague on such help.
Playing havoc with database
The first generation of the MyKads held by those ineligible to hold them are those which don’t carry any details on the parents of the holders, but yet have been issued the document under the category of operation of law, which doesn’t require the actual physical possession of a citizenship certificate. The application for such MyKads would have been facilitated by a false statutory declaration (SD) giving Sabah as the place of birth. The SD would have been followed by a late registration of birth certificate to be used to apply for the MyKad.
One problem is that many holders of such documents may have moved to Peninsular Malaysia, even back to their home countries or passed away.
In that case, the passage of time would have worked in favour of the JPN to cover its tracks. However, the infamous cases of Salman Majid and Majid Kani in court – Google it – are something that the JPN cannot explain to the RCI. Salman’s lawyer, Karpal Singh, and Majid’s lawyer, P J Perira, can be subpoened by the RCI.
The constant change of ICs in Malaysia from Blue to Bunga Raya to MyKad and the latest smart MyKad has played further havoc with the database and has reportedly allowed the JPN to conceal its tracks from yesteryears.
Still, the information on the first generation of illegal MyKad holders should be available on the JPN database unless it had deleted such information, citing the passing on of the holders or their return to their home countries or leaving the state.
The children and grandchildren of the first generation of MyKad holders cannot be exposed as ineligible and weeded out unless the information on the latter (first generation) is available. The database on the second generation of ineligible MyKad holders is likely to show that everything was above board, indicating parents’ details.
From then on, the cause is lost for the people of Sabah especially the Orang Asal.
In the absence of the required data at JPN, the Immigration Department may be able to provide the back-up date to piece together the picture on the first generation of ineligible MyKad holders.
Much of the problem, according to the grapevine, is in Putrajaya where a secret unit under the direction of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad stepped up the issuance of Malaysian personal documents to illegal immigrants in Sabah in contravention of the Federal Constitution. The suspicion is that the secret unit was initiated during the administrations of Mahathir’s predecessors.
Equally worrying for Sabahans is the suspicion that details from such documentation entered the electoral rolls in the state to tip the odds against the Orang Asal in particular and keep Chinese seats at a bare minimum.
Further compounding the problem of MyKad, which are a nullity in law from the very beginning, is that its holders apparently, as stated, had the tendency to keep moving to Peninsular Malaysia or return home. The result, according to the grapevine, was that the secret unit was forced to continue its operations and even step it up from time to time – operating even from jungle hideouts – to ensure that replacement voters entered the electoral rolls.
It was the JPN which, among others, refused to co-operate with the Federal Cabinet Committee on MyKads headed by Bernard Giluk Dompok during Mahathir’s premiership. It was rumoured then that the JPN and other departments were acting on Mahathir’s directive. Dompok promptly resigned his chairmanship when he discovered Mahathir’s double game.
Najib’s RCI, which Mahathir has delayed for so long while he fought a rearguard action tooth-and-nail to kill the idea, has brought the MyKad problem in Sabah full circle to where Dompok left off with very little accomplishment. If Najib has ignored Mahathir’s objections, it’s because he’s fighting for his political life in Sabah, an electoral “fixed deposit” state for him along with Sarawak. If Sabahans unite, they can beat the illegal immigrants allegedly on the electoral rolls.
Mahathir’s recent statement that illegal immigrants in Sabah who have stayed a very long time in the state and can speak Bahasa Malaysia are entitled to citizenship may be a red herring.
It’s not possible to issue citizenship certificates – naturalisation, for example – to illegal immigrants. If the illegals re-entered the state legally, it would be a different matter.
Again, they would not be able to qualify for citizenship by naturalisation as a matter of right.
They would need to hold an entry permit from the Immigration Department, work permits, and run the gauntlet of clearance by the Special Branch, police clearance by their home countries, temporary residence MyKads, permanent resident MyKads, apply for naturalisation, pass the Bahasa Malaysia test, collect their citizenship by naturalisation certificate and produce this to obtain a MyKad issued to citizens.