FMT Staff | August 22, 2012
Free Malaysia Today
KOTA KINABALU: Former Sabah state secretary Simon Sipaun has again sounded the alert that the federal government is hoodwinking Sabahans into believing the current government is serious about solving Sabah’s long-standing illegal immigrant problem.
He accused the federal government of having an agenda in allowing illegal immigrants to settle in the state.
Sipaun served as chairman of the Sabah Public Service Commission, was vice-chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, member of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Advisory Board, and a founding member of Demokrasi Sabah (DESAH).
“The mother of all problems in Sabah is the presence of unusually large population of illegal immigrants. By my estimation, they have already outnumbered the local Malaysians who are living in Sabah.
“It (the illegal immigrant problem) is quickly and surely changing the economic, social, political and cultural landscape of the state,” he said in a radio interview by “Inspire FM” that was aired last week.
While acknowledging that illegal immigrants had participated in the development of the state, he said this was no excuse for the federal government to behave as it had done on the issue.
“They [illegal immigrants] contribute to the development of the state, but that does not mean you can allow them to walk in and out of Sabah with impunity.
“I believe this is happening because this has been allowed by the federal government which is in charge of immigration from foreign countries and security.
“Why have they been allowed in? You have also this type of problem in the peninsula.”
He cited the posturing by the federal government in the 1970s when the Vietnamese boat people came to Peninsular Malaysia but were quickly dealt with.
Sipaun said this was the same time Sabah started to feel the influx of refugees from the Southern Philippines.
However, he said unlike in the peninsula, where within two years all those who landed in the peninsula were dealt with, those who landed here about the same time are still here.
“Why? This is what I call a federal government agenda. That’s the mother of all problems,” he said.
He believes the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants in Sabah is an insincere attempt to mollify Sabahans as the general election draws near, with a likelihood of protest votes taking place in the state.
Task bigger now
“The federal government is showing the people of Sabah that it is doing something about it… it has done all sorts of things – task force, deportations… but it has not produced the desired result.
“The task force was established when I was still a civil servant and that was about 35 years ago. Until today the task force is there but the task is bigger now. The problem is more complicated but it [task force] has not resolved the problem.
“The latest now is the RCI. From what I read in the newspaper… the federal government decided to have a RCI for Sabah on Feb 8, this year. It took four months for the federal government just to make the announcement. What does that indicate? That does not indicate urgency, that does not indicate seriousness.
“Now you [the government] talk about the terms of reference. Terms of reference means what is the RCI going to do? What are its objectives? The terms of reference should have been prepared before you decide on the RCI.
“RCI was a Cabinet decision. As far as I know, a Cabinet decision is based on a comprehensive Cabinet paper. The next thing to do after a decision is made by the Cabinet is to implement it.
“This is not the case…you talk of terms of reference for the RCI. That to me is as simple as putting the cart before the horse so it doesn’t move.
“So I think because of the election, the federal government just wants to show it is doing something about it but without the intention of really doing something about it.
“You know why? Because those people who have a hand in the creation of this problem are in government and surely they don’t want the truth to be out just as they were reluctant to act on [the recommendations of] the commission on the Lingam case, Teoh Beng Hock case, the police commission case… so many recommendations but not acted on.”