Dr Mahathir denied the allegation and blamed the fiasco Anwar Ibrahim instead. – File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 11 - Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders today accused Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad of selective memory for absolving himself of responsibility in the alleged distribution of citizenships to illegal immigrants in Sabah.
“As far I am concerned, Dr Mahathir can claim he is not responsible for anything. I think he lost his memory. He only remembers the good things like KLCC,” DAP central executive committee member Anthony Loke told The Malaysian Insider, referring to the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, one of the hallmark projects under Dr Mahathir’s administration.
The former prime minister, who has been repeatedly blamed for spearheading “Projek IC”, a 1980s initiative where Malaysian citizenships were allegedly exchanged for votes for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), insisted that such award was done according to law.
He claimed that the pre-requisite for such an award was for an individual to reside in Malaysia for a certain duration of time, among other requirements.
“I agree that we can give citizenships to people who have lived here a certain length of time and who qualifies to become citizens,” he told reporters after a book launch at Universiti Malaya.
But Dr Mahathir then added that while this is true, he could not have had total control over what was actually implemented on the ground during his tenure as prime minister.
“What happened on the ground, I can’t be responsible,” he said.
“But the order is given for them to give citizenships to those who qualify.”
Loke said it was impossible for Dr Mahathir, as a prime minister, not to be aware of operations on the ground.
Testimonies from the ongoing Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) pointed out that “Project IC” was a top-level operation that included Dr Mahathir’s then strong man, the late Tan Sri Megat Junid Megat Ayub.
Despite the revelation, Dr Mahathir, who served as Malaysia’s premier for 22 years, denied the allegation. He instead blamed the fiasco on current opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who was his deputy then. He too denied the accusation.
What sort of credentials he has as the prime minister not to be aware of the project?
“Can I call him the sleeping prime minister and that he was sleeping on his job much like his predecessor Abdullah?” PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub said, referring to the moniker given by the opposition to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
“He should be held responsible,” added the Kubang Kerian MP.
It was revealed that around 100,000 blue identity cards were issued to immigrants in Sabah in 1993 and these foreigners were allowed also given NRD receipts, which were temporary documents that would allow them to vote during the 1994 state election.
Last week, Special Branch (SB) officer DSP Badaruddin Ismail testified that a former NRD director had sold 16,000 NRD receipts for more than RM1 million, enabling immigrants in Sabah to vote.
But former Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh, who administered the state from 1976 to 1985 and was among the first few to take the stand before the RCI, has denied the existence of “Projek IC”.
Sabah has nearly a million registered voters ― 926,638, to be exact, according to a June report in English-language daily The Star.
PKR vice-president Chua Tian Chang said whether or not Dr Mahathir was involved would be decided by the Sabah voters in the looming polls.
“I think history will record the revelations the RCI aims to divulge. Dr Mahathir whether he was wrong or not will be etched in history.
“What is going on in Sabah is a reality and whether or not he is responsible will be answered at the elections,” he said.
Observers have predicted that RCI could tilt the outcome of the elections in Sabah to favour the opposition which aims to dent BN’s effort to keep the Eastern Malaysian state fortified from PR’s surging influence.
Both Sabah and Sarawak were key to BN’s survival at Election 2008 when it delivered most of the seats needed to give the ruling coalition a simple majority.