Rights commission to document influx of illegals
Joe Fernandez | Jan 7, 09 3:58pm
Human Rights Commission vice-chairperson Simon Sipaun wants those with documentary evidence of the extraordinary rise in the state’s population in recent decades to come forward and lodge reports with Suhakam in Kota Kinabalu.
"Such documentation, in the absence of a royal commission, is the next best way to get a clear picture of the growing illegal population in Sabah," said Sipaun.
"The public update yesterday from the federal government on the number of unrecognised refugees in the state, although disputable, will add to our body of knowledge on the problem."
He was commenting on a disclosure by the Special Task Force in the Prime Minister’s Department that Sabah currently hosts 93,000 foreigners – 81,000 Filipinos and 12,000 Indonesians – who hold IMM13 documents issued by the Immigration Department.
The task force, under director Misri Barham, has been under pressure for months to provide an update on the issue following the commencement of a crackdown against the several hundred thousand illegals in the state.
So far, added Sipaun, his office in Kota Kinabalu has gathered various documents including academic studies on the illegal influx in Sabah. These include "When States Prefer Non-Citizens Over Citizens: Conflict Over illegal Immigration into Malaysia" by Kamal Sadiq and "Stateless in Sabah" by Vanitha Nadaraj.
Sipaun pointed out that there is a common thread running through these documents and two earlier books by MD Mutalib, "Projek IC" – a reference to genuine identity cards issued through the back door to illegals during the administration of Dr Mahathir Mohamad and "Lelaki Malaysia Terakhir".
"I have personally witnessed many events - the issuance of personal documents to illegals and illegals on the electoral roll - as described in the two books," said Sipaun, a former Sabah state secretary during the PBS administration.
"Allegations contained in the books have never been challenged by those named in the books."
Both the academic studies, made available by Sipaun, allege that illegal immigrants played an important part in the electoral process in Sabah.
Just how "visible" is the presence of illegal immigrants in Sabah?
Worried "locals" have this to say according to Sadiq: "Ours must be the only place in the world where illegals have the courage to walk about in the streets with impunity, commit crimes, use our overstretched government hospitals, steal our water, attend our schools and milk us of our resources in numerous ways."Do illegal immigrants have more rights?
While the Nadaraj study echoes much of what Sadiq has to say, the author warned that "a social volcano is brewing in Sabah, where about 300,000 stateless people have no rights, no voice, and no avenue for redress, breeding bitterness and anger".
Even so, Nadaraj pointed out that from the 1970s until 1984, many stateless people were given Malaysian identity cards that offered privileges in exchange for votes.
"Malaysia uses census practices and documentation to incorporate an illegal immigrant population from the Philippines," wrote Sadiq.
"Illegal immigrants play an electoral role in Sabah because of the loosely institutionalised nature of citizenship."
"So, why should a state give non-citizens preference over native citizens? Why is being native not enough? These facts are in direct contrast to what most scholars know about Malaysia: that it is a multiethnic country with successful preferential policies for its natives, the sons of the soil.
"Yet by encouraging illegal immigration, Malaysia was privileging non-citizens over citizens in certain situations."
Sadiq also observed that ironically, illegal immigrants were taking part in the electoral process (in Sabah) even as many natives continue to have no documents proving their citizenship.
According to him, "illegal immigrants were being welcomed and afforded the rights of citizens by sections of the Malaysian state over the opposition of many native citizens".
"Illegal immigration to Malaysia from the Philippines and Indonesia highlights the paradox of states actively admitting illegal immigrants."
Holders of the IMM13 have the right to reside and work in Sabah without a work permit.
Most of them work as labourers, fishermen or small-time traders at night markets.
Their children can study at Malaysian schools upon payment of an annual fee of RM120 for primary and RM240 for secondary schools.
Holders have to renew the IMM13 annually and pay a RM90 fee but they have no right to travel outside the state.
"Refugee figures in Sabah are an important barometer of the extraordinary rise in the state’s population in recent decades although the figures themselves may be in dispute. The IMM13 holders themselves are only a fraction of the illegal immigrant population in Sabah," added Sipaun.
"In fact, the authenticity of these IMM13 documents themselves can be questioned since quite a number may have been falsified. We have come across such cases before."
Sipaun also questioned Malaysia’s divergent approaches in dealing with the problem of ‘refugees’ in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia, where an estimated 25,000 Rohingyas from Burma have been denied the IMM13 document and its attendant privileges. http://malaysiakini.com/news/95957
Added on January 10, 2009, 4:07 pmWelfare body in the dock over illegals
Joe Fernandez | Jan 10, 09 3:18pm
Yayasan Islam Sabah (YIS), a welfare body, has come out fighting, denying strenuously the widely-held public perception that it is in cahoots with former chief minister Harris Salleh to bring illegal immigrants into the state.
"Although many illegal immigrants flooding Sabah are Muslims, that’s just a coincidence," said YIS secretary-general Raden Kakung. "YIS has never supported the entry of illegal immigrants. In fact, YIS supports the federal and state governments’ ongoing efforts to flush out and repatriate all illegal immigrants."
The body was responding to numerous criticisms in the forum pages of local newspapers for its oft-noted public statements on the issue of illegal immigrants including the latest on the issuance of green ICs to foreigners who entered Sabah illegally and subsequently became stateless.
One anonymous critic, ‘Bumiputera Tulen’ from Ranau, described it "as rather odd that YIS, a religious body, and Raden Kakung like to get involved in the issue of illegal immigration. From the numerous statements made, I am of the view that Raden, YIS and Harris Salleh are sympathetic to the illegals".
"As far as I know, PKR Sabah Chief Dr Jeffrey Gimpoi Kitingan and Dr Chong Eng Leong are taking the stand that foreigners who entered the country illegally should not be eligible for the green IC. They never mention any nationality," added ‘Bumiputera Tulen’.
Chong, a former senior PBS supreme council member, has been involved in court battles and police reports against the presence of illegal immigrants in the state. He left the party after it re-joined the Barisan Nasional and took a softer public line on the issue of illegal immigration.
"I know of a housemaid who used to return to the Philippines quite frequently. Now, she has a MyKad and her seven children are in possession of documents which make them eligible to apply for MyKads," wrote another anonymous commentator ‘Panglima Gantang’ of Penampang.
He said he objected to YIS’ stand that the green MyKads be issued to all stateless foreigners in Sabah and warns of the security implications for Malaysia ‘in view of the recent incidents in Mumbai’.
‘Many ‘pendatang’ non-Muslims...’
Raden denied labeling and anti-immigrant activist Chong as ‘anti-Filipino’ or ‘anti-Indonesian’ or racist in a recent YIS statement carried by local media. "We were merely advising them to look at the larger picture within the context of the nation and not be so narrow-minded," said Raden.
"Many of the pendatang (Indians and Chinese) in Peninsular Malaysia, it must be noted, are non- Muslims. There are also many foreign workers there from Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and elsewhere."
"However, we agree that the green MyKads be issued to those who are stateless. Our stand must not be misconstrued as our being together with the illegal immigrants from Indonesia and the Philippines who are in Sabah."
The YIS chief justified his organisation’s stand on the green ICs on the grounds that Malaysia is party to several international conventions on the rights of refugees – KL is not a signatory – and human rights.
Green ICs, renewable every five years, allow holders to work without a work permit and conduct transactions like banking or sitting for public examinations, among others, for which a personal identity card is required.
Kitingan and Chong have taken the public stand that under Regulation 5 (3) of the National Registration Act, those born in Malaysia of parents who entered the country illegally and the local born children of IMM13 document holders – unrecognised refugees – are not eligible for the green MyKad while those in possession of a Late Registration Birth Certificate need to have their document verified by a court in accordance with the Sabah Ordinance on Births and Deaths.
YIS stand is that the existing regulations allow the home minister to issue green MyKads to stateless foreigners and this should not be queried since it has been endorsed by the federal cabinet and Barisan Nasional.
"Dr Kitingan and Dr Chong should not speculate on the problems that would arise if the registration exercise for green ICs proceeds," said Raden. "As democrats, they should accept the green IC registration exercise under Regulation 3 (1) which has been approved by the federal cabinet."NRA regulations disputed
Raden also cautioned Kitingan and Chong against imputing sinister motives to the federal government on the issue of illegal immigrants and pointed out that numerous cases in court testify to the sincerity of the authorities in tackling the problem of those acquiring the MyKad through the backdoor.
"There is no proof the federal government is behind the issue of MyKad and birth certificate issuance to illegal immigrants," said Raden. "Those who make such accusations are in the same category as the Mumbai authorities who blame Pakistan for the terrorist attacks there recently just because a captured gunman was found with a Pakistani identity card in his pocket.
"Luckily Malaysia was not accused too because the gunmen were carrying Malaysian credit cards."
It is not known what lies behind the numerous statements that YIS issues from time to time on the issue of illegal immigrants often with Harris Salleh on the bandwagon too.
YIS is not involved in any activities of a religious nature including missionary work or promoting Islam as a religion. On paper, YIS stresses on the welfare and socio-economic needs of the ummah (the Muslim faithful) and "ensuring that the teachings of Islam are followed by its adherents".
In recent public pleas - apparently in defence of the large illegal immigrant population in Sabah - YIS has gone to great lengths to link their (the illegals’) presence with Malaysia’s and Sabah’s growing labour needs.
YIS has also disputed the adverse interpretation of the National Registration Act against illegal immigrants, more specifically Regulation 3 (1); Regulation 27; and Regulation 5 (3), pointing out that there are "loopholes" in the various regulations which favour illegal immigrants in Sabah "if authorities exercise their discretionary powers judiciously".http://malaysiakini.com/news/96185This post has been edited by DarReNz: Jan 10 2009, 04:07 PM