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Resolve ‘stateless’ children issue now

 | May 19, 2011

Sabah is getting a severe beating over the issue of stateless children, says a deputy minister.

SANDAKAN: Sabah’s image is getting a severe beating as a result of the increasing number of stateless children, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, VK Liew, said.

He added that it was imperative that the government give this issue its urgent attention.

“We must find ways to resolve this outstanding issue once and for all.

“Al Jazeera (news channel) showed ugly scenes of stateless children sniffing glue in Sabah. These scenes were taken in the city (Kota Kinabalu) and the nearby Pulau Gaya.

“These stateless children do not represent the Malaysian society in Sabah.

“They are here because many of their parents, who are illegal immigrants, have either abandoned them or left them when they were arrested or deported to their countries of origin.”

Stateless children are a by-product of the massive influx of illegal immigrants into Sabah.

According to an Asia Foundation December report, the demand for cheap labour in Sabah’s palm oil plantations and its labour-intensive production processes have kept the migrants coming since the 1970s.

The report noted that as at 2009, Sabah was home to about 52,000 stateless children and the numbers were steadily increasing.

These children were mainly from Indonesian and Philippines plantation workers who grew up on palm oil plantations.

“Others spend their childhood on the streets, as child labourers, and are exposed early to social ills like glue sniffing, drugs, petty crime, or child abuse,” noted the report.

Serious issue

Speaking to reporters here after his “Bringing service to people” programme, Liew said the central issue was the massive illegal immigrant population in Sabah.

“This issue has plagued us for decades. We can no longer pretend and hope that the problem will go away one day.

“These children are a serious issue. They will grow up in our society. The issue is not going to disappear if we don’t do something.

“We need a pro-active approach to these children without names. They must be identified and pursued without fail,” said Liew, who is also Sandakan MP.

Liew, who is also Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president, is among a rare few Sabah Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders who have openly called for a solution to the perennial issue which has ripped apart Sabah’s socio-political and economic fabric.

Another BN ally, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), had recently warned the federal and state governments that the people of Sabah would no longer stand idly by if the security situation within the state degenerates into chaos due to illegal immigrants.

Sabah has the highest number of poor in the country and an increasing crime statistic.

PBS had also warned that BN stood to lose Sabah over the illegal immigrant issue.

The illegal immigrants population currently exceeds native Sabahans.

Call for RCI

According to Common Interest Group Malaysia (CigMA)chiarman Daniel Jambun, there are currently “1.7 million illegals in the state and this is the mother of all issues in Sabah”.

“Today, the 1.5 million Sabahans have effectively been marginalised and disenfranchised in their own land by the illegal immigrants because the federal government chooses to do nothing.”

Both CigMA and opposition PKR have called for the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to resolve the illegal immigrant issue.

But the federal goverment has refused to response to the call. Many believe that this is primarily because Umno was allegedly involved in legalising illegal immigrants in the 1990s.

Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman was allegedly the director of Sabah Umno Task Force from 1919-1993 and charged with recruiting foreigners as voters by granting then Malaysian citizenship.

Currently, many of the theories being bandied around is that both Sabah Umno and PBS need the illegal immigrant votes to stay in power and ensure a BN win in the parliamentary polls.


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