Will there be justice for Sabah?


Apart from that, the result of the heinous action of giving away the ICs has been tantamount to selling the country to foreigners. It is outright treason. And that demands punishment. We revoked the permanent residence status of a Singaporean because he allowed a group of Singaporean Buddhists to meditate in a surau. What should we do to people who sell our country? 

Kee Thuan Chye 

The recent testimonies at the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants in Sabah have certainly been revealing – to some of us, shocking.To be sure, prior to the RCI, we had heard rumours and allegations of identity cards being given to illegal immigrants, under what has been called Project IC or Project M (after ex-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad), so that they could vote for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) and keep it in power, but hearing it now from the mouths of people involved in the project confirms our fear that our country’s citizenships have indeed been given away cheaply and illegally.

One of the witnesses, former Sandakan chief district officer Hassnar Ebrahim who first gave out forms in 1981 to Filipino and Indonesian illegal immigrants to allow them to apply for ICs, gave damning indication that Mahathir must have given his approval to the project because an enterprise of such a magnitude would have required it.

Besides, Hassnar said he attended a “secret meeting” in the 1980s that involved officers from the Prime Minister’s Department, the Immigration Department and the police, and at this meeting, then home affairs minister Megat Junid Megat Ayub said Mahathir had approved the project.

It was proposed that 130,000 to 150,000 names be added to the Sabah electoral roll to boost the Muslim vote. Although there were protests from one of the officers present, the proposal was passed. Hassnar himself was given 30,000 HNR3 forms to take back to Sabah. These forms were for the immigrants to apply for blue ICs.

Another witness, former banker Mat Swadi Awi, gave startling testimony when he revealed that he was the “grand designer” of the exercise conducted from 1987 to 1990 to distribute voters throughout Sabah who would vote for United Sabah National Organisation (Usno), a BN component party, with the aim of toppling the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) government.

He did this in response to a personal request from then Usno president Datu Mustapha Datu Harun – with the consent of Megat Junid. They both told him that Mahathir knew about the plan and had given his approval.

The plan was to increase the number of Malay and Muslim voters in strategic constituencies by deploying to these places immigrants who already had either fake or genuine Malaysian documents, as well as Malaysian citizens from Peninsular Malaysia and those serving in Sabah.

Mat Swadi said he selected a total of 20,000 names. Of these, one-third comprised Malaysian citizens and the rest were immigrants.

What did he do with these names? Here’s the punchline – he gave them to the Election Commission (EC) to be registered as voters in those constituencies. The EC! The body that is supposed to be independent and neutral colluded in this sinister exercise!

Also, according to Mat Swadi, the National Registration Department (NRD) helped by identifying who among the immigrants should be Malaysianised and then supplying the data to him.

The terrifying thing that emerges from these testimonies is that the various branches of authority were in it together. The police, the NRD, the Immigration Department, the EC were allegedly in on the scheme. As Mat Swadi said, “You would not get the approval for (the issuance of the ICs and their registration in electoral rolls) without the involvement of the agencies concerned.”

And, according to Hassnar, even Biro Tata Negara (BTN), which comes under the Prime Minister’s Department, was involved in registering illegal immigrants as voters after they had secured their blue ICs.

This makes it sound all the more that the whole project would have been a government conspiracy.

And what was it all for?

From what we’ve heard throughout the RCI, it was all for the purpose of increasing Malay-Muslim power in Sabah in order to oust the Kadazandusun-dominated PBS and keep it out … well, forever.

The alleged motive is political engineering at its most repulsive. Hassnar said the then Sabah NRD director Sani Abdullah refused to join the secret meeting chaired by Megat Junid. Sani said “this was treason and it would cause a disaster”. As it has turned out, Sani was right.

It is treason. And it is a disaster. Malaysian-born Sabahans are now swamped by the foreigners who were given citizenships.

Hassnar observed that “these foreigners are even taking over native land that belonged to the original Bumiputera Sabahans”. He also spoke of a Bugis immigrant who came to assume the name of Sabahan Halim Ahmad who had died without his death having been reported to the authorities. The Bugis used Halim’s birth certificate to apply for a blue IC in 2009. It was approved by the NRD. Today, this man allegedly controls illegal gambling dens in Sandakan.

It would seem that unlike Singapore, which has been opening its doors to foreigners in order to attract the best talents, we have been attracting the dregs of society.

What should be done about the situation? Clearly, the absorption of illegal immigrants into the Sabah citizenry has been a problem for genuine Sabahans for a long time, and many of them have been hoping that the RCI will finally address the problem with genuine seriousness in order to solve it. But will it prove to do that?

And will the current federal government, regardless of what the RCI panel eventually recommends, do what really needs to be done to once and for all correct the wrong and the injustice the past federal governments have inflicted on the people of Sabah?

As early as last year, the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), now in the Opposition, proposed the issuing of Sabahan identity cards only to those qualified to be Malaysians in order to safeguard the rights of genuine Sabahans.

Then in March this year, Bernard Dompok, president of BN component party United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko), asked for all ICs issued in Sabah to be recalled and reissued to only those identified as genuine Sabahans, so as to weed out those who obtained theirs through dubious means.

Two other Sabah BN parties, PBS and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS), joined in to support the idea.

It was, however, rejected by then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz, who said it would be difficult to be implemented and there would be legal implications.

He could be right. Now that the camel has been allowed into the tent, how do we coax it to leave? How will we clean the Augean stables that has proven to be a herculean task?

Just on a simplistic level, we could consider that many of the illegal holders are now running businesses in the state. Some, like the Bugis posing as Halim Ahmad, are probably controlling illegal syndicates. Try taking the ICs away from them and see what their reactions would be.

Even so, the right thing has to be done. Apart from that, the result of the heinous action of giving away the ICs has been tantamount to selling the country to foreigners. It is outright treason. And that demands punishment.

We revoked the permanent residence status of a Singaporean because he allowed a group of Singaporean Buddhists to meditate in a surau. What should we do to people who sell our country?