By : IDA LIM
KUALA LUMPUR : A bipartisan roundtable has urged that the proposed Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants being given citizenship in Sabah be given power to identify and take action against those responsible.
Yesterday's panel discussion, which included United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation secretary general Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau and former senator Dr Chong Eng Leong from PKR, also demanded an "official explanation and justification."
The roundtable was hosted by Proham, a group of former human rights commissioners, and included leading members of civil society and the public service in Sabah including the National Registration Department (NRD).
"It was proposed that the RCI must have the powers to investigate the unusual rise of the Sabah population (and) specific cases by which foreigners have even secured the status of Sabah born identification cards.
"Among the terms of reference (TOR) must be a provision to identify who was responsible for this situation and appropriate action be taken on them," Proham said in a statement today on the problem which has been blamed for the rise in social and economic problems in the state.
Dr Chong, a former senator who quit Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), has repeatedly accused former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad of giving out at least 600,000 citizenships in a campaign that began prior to the 1994 state polls in order to ensure Umno’s political takeover of Sabah.
Participants were also "perplexed in the slow response of federal leaders" in addressing the Sabah citizenship problem, saying this may cause a "loss of confidence" that they would act "in the best interest of Sabah".
Sabah BN has been pushing for an RCI for months, with Upko president Tan Sri Bernard Dompok saying in February that the Cabinet had agreed to form one.
However, Datuk Seri Najib Razak's silence on the issue during a February visit to Sabah had "angered and embarrassed" Sabah BN leaders, who have been trumpeting their success in pushing for an RCI.
This sparked rumours and Internet news reports of the possibility the prime minister had backpedalled on the Cabinet's decision, with some even claiming a 'secret meeting' of Umno warlords had warned the BN chief it would lose a sizeable chunk of votes if the RCI were to lead to a crackdown on Sabah's large population of illegal immigrants.
The opposition has alleged that illegal immigrants have been allowed into Sabah and given MyKads and voting rights to help the ruling coalition retain control.
Proham also said "rights of refugees and migrant workers" should not be violated "in the efforts to enhance the citizenship position of Sabahans."
"They (the participants) do not blame the foreigners and also recognise them as victims in the system."
They also said the RCI must make recommendations because a "large number of families including the children born locally of these foreigners" will be impacted.
They asked for the TOR to be made public and for independent members to be appointed to the RCI.
Some of the panellists included Proham chairman Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, who has been mooted as a member of the RCI, and Human Rights Commission's (Suhakam) Jannie Lasimbang.
A recent survey by independent pollsters Merdeka Centre found that 88 percent of urban voters in Sabah want the RCI to be established. - Sabahkini