The Sabah RCI report in a nutshell

By Ram Anand
Dec 3, 2014

The Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) report on illegal immigrants in Sabah was finally released today in Kota Kinabalu after much delay.

The commission was first mooted in 2012, and had hearings beginning Jan 14 up until Sept 2013.

It heard 211 witnesses before the findings of the commission were submitted to the federal government in May this year.

Former Borneo chief judge Steve Shim headed the five-man panel which heard testimonies from the witnesses, which included former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PKR de-facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Over the course of the hearings, nobody took blame for the projects and operations that granted these citizenship to immigrants.

Despite being widely blamed for the “Project IC” or “Project M”, Mahathir denied knowledge of any such covert operations.

No guilty party

Below are the conclusions and findings of the RCI as per the report:

The report did not name any perpetrator or party behind the large influx of immigrants into the state. The aspect of finding the guilty was not outlined in the RCI’s terms of reference when it was announced in 2012.

It found that syndicates and individuals aided by corrupt officials were responsible for issuing Malaysian ICs and documentation through illegal means.

Project IC “probably” existed at all material times due to “some credibility” behind witness statements.

Economic motivation was the main contributing factor for influx of illegal immigrants to Sabah.

Illegal immigrants did not find any difficulty in procuring Malaysian ICs, birth certificates and other documents to facilitate access to most rights of Malaysian citizenship.

There was also confusion on whether the nature of the commission was a RCI or a mere commission of inquiry, as the title of the report was called Commission of Enquiry. Indeed some officials, including government chief secretary Ali Hamsa and the RCI secretary Saripuddin Kasim, did not use the word “royal”.

Weakness in border control and the lackadaisical attitude of law enforcement officers had precipitated the influx of illegal immigrants into Sabah.

A “weakly institutionalised” system in Sabah also contributed to the problem.

No clear indication that National Registration Rules 1972 were contravened in procedures relating to information and documents. Procedures had instead been abused by applicants.

Exact number of those who are in the electoral roll even though they are not supposed to be there is “uncertain”.

Authorities should be aggressive in a regularisation programme in Sabah given the huge number of foreign workers there.

In its one-page recommendation, it called for the setting up of a permanent secretariat for look into the problem and to solve it.

In its postscript, the RCI stressed that it is not the be-all, end-all and instead said that the problems can only be solved through political will and depending on how authorities adopt the recommendations.
Eight terms of reference

The RCI was confined by eight terms of reference:

1) To determine number of immigrants granted blue identity cards;

2) To determine number of immigrants granted blue identity cards due to statelessness;

3) To investigate whether this was done legally;

4) To investigate if immigrants holding blue identity cards were illegally registered in the electoral roll;

5) To investigate the standard operating procedures (SOP) for issuance of blue identity cards and recommend improvements;

6) To probe if the authorities had taken action or done improvements to the SOP to prevent infringement of the law;

7) To investigate reason behind the increase in Sabah’s population and their impact on the electoral roll; and,

8) To investigate the social implications of granting citizenship to immigrants in the state.

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