Sabah BN needs ‘phantom voters’ to win

By Queville To, FMT

KOTA KINABALU: After years of timid pleas for an investigation into the overwhelming presence of illegal immigrants in Sabah by state government leaders, the calls are becoming shriller as the countdown to the 13th general election takes shape.

Sounding panicky and even hysterical over the last couple of weeks almost all the state Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition partners have trotted out one after the other to ‘demand’ the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI).

Joining the list of parties demanding an RCI on the issue which would invariably expose a host of illegal activities by past and present high-level government figures, is newly-empowered Gerakan. Gerakan in Sabah is a controversy in itself because it gained power in the state through the back door.

But the notable absentee from the alphabet soup of acronyms which is the roll-call of BN partners – PBS, UPKO, PBRS, LDP, MCA, Gerakan and MIC – is however the party that calls the shots in Sabah – Umno. Umno is the overlord in Sabah’s ruling regime.

The outspoken demands have also, however, raised the long-held suspicions that support for such parties is fading in the state and they are acting in desperation to fend off a backlash by the electorate if elections are called.

Former BN supporter, the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) which is now in the opposition ranks believes the various state BN component parties are desperate.

Weary electorate

Its information chief Chong Pit Fah pointed out that despite all their calls for an RCI in the newspapers, none of the government MPs had made any move to file a motion in the Parliament to ensure such a body is formed.

“Anything less is an insult to the people of Sabah,” said Chong who sees the latest round of public demands by the BN components as being toothless.

“The 13th general election is just around the corners,” he explains, emphasizing the view held by a weary electorate who understand the various nuances of BN party ‘demands’.

Chong was commenting on a local MCA division leader joining the RCI chorus, when the party’s top leadership has denied that there is anything illegal in how thousands of illegal immigrants in Sabah gained citizenship documents and become voters.

Lee Chee Liong, the Deputy Home Minister and the party’s MP for Kampar during a visit to Sabah astonishingly dismissed the existence of ‘Project IC’ as the secretive scheme to register illegal immigrants as citizens and use them as a BN vote bank in any election is known.

Chong said that given Lee’s stand, the turnaround by the local MCA leader was nonsense.

Sabah MCA leadership did not refute what Lee said and “apologize to the people of Sabah for his insulting remarks”, said Chong.

‘Fixed deposit’ of immigrants

He said it was now a well-known fact that all BN components had used such “new Malaysians” or “phantom voters” to sway past elections and would likely do so again in the coming polls.

But BN now can  ill-afford to disenfranchise this “fixed deposit” of BN voters.