MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Friday, April 5, 2019

Why is Jeffrey Kitingan barred from entering Sarawak?

Let me get straight to the point. I have a serious question for my chief minister, Abang Johari Openg. Why is Sabah opposition leader Dr Jeffrey Kitingan barred from entering Sarawak?
Until last Monday, I was unaware that Jeffrey was also on the Sarawak immigration’s ‘blacklist’. A Sibu lawyer brought it to my attention and I was actually quite taken aback with this fresh information.
I had met Jeffrey several times over the past years in Kuching. He had been going in and out of Sarawak, so the news of his travel ban came as a total surprise to me.
On Tuesday, Jeffrey confirmed that he was indeed barred. His message to me read: “On March 11, 2017, I was informed by immigration at Kuching airport that I was not permitted to enter Sarawak. The ban has been in force since February 2017. That was the first time I was barred and the final occasion when I set foot in Kuching.”
I took note of the date. Abang Jo assumed office as Sarawak chief minister in January 2017. So it was Abang Jo who actually made the decision to bar Jeffrey. I would like to know why.
His predecessor, Adenan Satem, never took that action against Jeffrey. Neither did Abdul Taib Mahmud. If these two former chief ministers did not consider Jeffrey as a “threat” or an “unwanted influence” over the past four decades, why did Abang Jo suddenly think so? That is my poser.
Abang Johari Openg
I do not expect a response from Abang Jo or from his office, not after I’ve publicly described him as a weakling. But I wish to be proven wrong. If I do not hear from the CM’s Office, then I have to conclude that my chief minister’s reason for denying entry to Jeffrey must be personal.
I could be wrong, of course, but that would be my assumption if there is no official word. Those in power must realise that if they do not bother to respond to legitimate questions from the public, assumptions will turn into rumours and this will benefit no one at the end of the day.
As a Sarawakian, I would want Sarawak’s immigration autonomy to be maintained and secured at all costs. But I would be the first to oppose any abuse of power on that autonomy by the serving chief minister.
Only recently, I have urged my chief minister to place controversial preacher Zakir Naik on the persona non grata list. I believe all of Sarawak rejoice with me when it was confirmed that Zakir is indeed on the immigration’s blacklist.
Zakir Naik
Again, let me thank Sarawak Local Government and Housing Minister Dr Sim Kui Hian for taking the trouble to relay that “good news” to me and fellow Sarawakians.
In the past, I have also spoken up for personalities like Ambiga Sreenevasan, Maria Chin Abdullah and Clare Rewcastle-Brown when they were denied entry into my homeland.
As a Sarawakian, I also bow my head in shame when others criticised Sarawak leaders for their purported abuse of our immigration autonomy. I concede that is true – that power has been abused time and again.
Callous act
Let me relate a clear case of that abuse of immigration power. In 1978, then DAP secretary-general Lim Kit Siang was detained at Kuching Airport and had to be put on a wheelchair and carried up the aircraft to be flown back to Kuala Lumpur.
The Sarawak chief minister then was Abdul Rahman Yakub.
Abdul Rahman Yakub
In 1979, Rahman was having problems with SUPP secretary-general Stephen Yong, and the chief minister decided to use DAP to teach SUPP a lesson. Rahman encouraged DAP to set foot in Sarawak and Lim was soon welcomed with open arms. This is a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” in politics.
Isn’t this a clear-cut abuse of Sarawak’s immigration autonomy by the chief minister? As a Sarawakian, I strongly abhor such a callous act of political expediency. It is morally wrong for the chief minister to abuse his immigration authority at his whims and fancies.
Why do I rise to the defence of Jeffrey today? Because I just cannot comprehend how the Sabah politician could be of any threat to Sarawak or its peoples. Or is there something fishy about Jeffrey that I do not know but Abang Jo is aware of? Then, tell us why Jeffrey is considered a bad influence for Sarawakians.
Jeffrey has been in the forefront in the fight for the restoration of Sabah’s rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and Abang Jo, as he had declared, is on the same mission for Sarawak.
In fact, it is heartwarming to see Jeffrey sharing the same platform with GPS legislators in Parliament yesterday in opposing Pakatan Harapan’s proposed MA63 Amendment Bill.
Sabah and Sarawak leaders must work closely together on this long-standing issue. The two Borneo territories share the same fate and the leaders should accept the reality that “we go in together and we have to get out together, if need be”.
Today, Jeffrey is not irrelevant in Sabah politics but an emerging power player. He has the support of his fellow Sabahans as evidenced from his GE14 victory in the parliamentary seat of Keningau and the state seat of Tambunan.
Jeffrey Kitingan
I hope 2019 will open a new chapter for my chief minister’s relationship with Jeffrey as both leaders share the same vision - a “Better Sarawak” and a “Better Sabah”. Let there be mutual respect and trust. 2017 is past, let whatever ugliness there was then be buried forever.
I sincerely hope that Abang Jo will lift the ban on Jeffrey as soon as possible. In this case, feuds should not be allowed to stalemate trust, as Sabah and Sarawak have always been brotherly neighbours and their leaders should act likewise.
And Jeffrey, I do hope to enjoy high tea with you again at your favourite Telang Usan Hotel in Kuching soon.

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com. - Mkini

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