Has Dr Mahathir Mohamad, often cited as the mastermind behind Sabah's infamous Project IC, again 'injured' Najib Tun Razak?
KOTA KINABALU: Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s objection to the setting of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on Sabah’s illegal immigrant problem may prove detrimental to the state Barisan Nasional, which is already struggling to retain its sway over native voters.
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who is scheduled to announce the terms of the RCI in Sabah tomorrow, is hoping to recover “lost” ground among native Sabahans who have bitterly complained against the influx of legalised illegal immigrants in the state since the 1990s.
More than one million of Sabah’s current population have benefited from the innocuous Project IC which was introduced during the Mahathir era and allegedly aimed at neutralising Sabah’s then strong Christian community and consolidating Umno’s strength in Sabah.
At a meeting not too long ago, Najib was told by the local Sabah Umno warlords that an RCI was a bad idea as this “group” of legalised illegals were BN’s fixed deposit and who have been “loyal’ voters of BN in past polls.
Although “beneficial” to Umno, the contentious issue is a yoke around the neck of Sabah BN’s native-based parties – PBS, Upko and PBRS.
Post-2008, Project IC and the millions of legalised illegal immigrants with MyKads in Sabah have been a setback for BN.
Hidden secrets of Umno’s insidious agenda in Sabah have come to light and despite call from Sabahans for RCI, little has been done.
On June 1 Najib finally announced that the Cabinet had approved a RCI.
However, since then there have been no updates and many had accused the federal government of using the RCI as a carrot to lure native votes.
But Najib has now said that the terms of reference for the RCI were ready and he is expected to announce it in Sabah tomorrow.
Pointless to have RCI, says Mahathir
But Mahathir today said that no matter what the outcome of the investigations, it was unlikely that the ruling government would be exonerated.
His dismissive statement has irked many Sabahans including PBS Youth chief Jahid Jahim.
Jahid said Mahathir was confusing legal migrants with illegal immigrants who are holding legal Malaysian identification documents.
“We do not object to those who come to Sabah legally and apply for citizenship through the proper channel, but we are against them being granted the right to be Malaysians just because they have lived here for a long time and can speak Malay fluently.
“That is totally wrong and unconstitutional,” he said, adding that there is no country in the world that practised what Mahathir was spouting.
He said what Mahathir said was detrimental to the future of the genuine citizens.
Upko information chief Donald Mojuntin riled, by Mahathir’s insensitive statement, said: “It is a great pity that some leaders are still oblivious or even ignorant of the prevailing concerns of Sabahans, irrespective of race or religion, with regard to this issue.”
“In Sabah, we are worried about illegal immigrants who obtain valid Malaysian identity cards through dubious means and in a relatively short span of time.
“We are very concerned with its direct correlation to the extraordinary increase in Sabah’s population between 1970 and 2005.
“Some foreigners, especially from the Philippines, have actually gone public and openly admitted that they obtained their Malaysian identity cards through what is called ‘Projek IC’,” said Mojuntin.
RCI terms must allow thorough probe
He also pointed out that since the 1980s, there have been many Sabahans from the grassroots to community and political leaders who had expressed concern on the issue.
“We’ve even had various books written on the issue, notably the ones by MD Mutalib and legal testimonies that were given.
“This is a real and serious issue that affects the lives of genuine Sabah citizens and it may now have already seeped into Peninsular Malaysia.
“Legalising illegal immigrants is a matter of national security… It has tarnished our electoral rolls and threatened our future generations.
“This is the reason why Upko has persistently pushed for the setting up of a RCI to investigate the existence of ‘Projek IC’ as well as the extraordinary population increase in Sabah,” he said.
Mojuntin said that Sabahans were waiting to hear the terms of reference of the RCI which will be announced by Najib.
“We hope that the terms of reference are comprehensive enough to adequately address the problem and to allow for a thorough investigation.
“Equally important is the composition of the RCI panel. They must be of the highest integrity and above reproach,” he said.