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Mahathir rejects Sabah RCI plan

 | August 10, 2012

The former premier, who has been blamed for the huge increase of immigrants in the state, claims that whatever the RCI's findings, it will be bad for BN.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today he is against the move to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Sabah’s illegal immigrant problem and described it as pointless.

“The RCI will not deliver any result that will solve the problems. When there is a RCI it will bring about other matters,” he told reporters here while maintaining his innocence in a fiasco that is threatening the ruling coalition’s effort to keep Sabah as its “fixed deposit” state.

His statement comes as Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak plans to announce the details of the RCI there tomorrow in a move seemingly aimed at containing a potential voter backlash ahead of a key national polls.

Two senior federal lawmakers from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition recently quit, citing disaffection for the Najib administration following its failure to resolve the longstanding controversy which begin during Mahathir’s era.

The country’s fourth premier was blamed for the growth of illegal immigrant numbers in the East Malaysian state under the purported vote-for-citizenship shadow policy dubbed “Project IC”.

But Mahathir, who ruled Malaysia for 22 years since 1981, defended the naturalisation drive, saying the immigrants were qualified for citizenship after residing in the country for more than 10 years and spoke the national language.

“Previously they have been coming and going. They are not alien to Sabah; they have been going back and forth between Sabah and the Philippines.

“Maybe they feel Sabah is safer and that is why they stay there,” he said.

Double jeopardy

Najib announced Putrajaya’s plan to set up the RCI on Sabah’s illegals issue on June 1.

However, no details on the panel’s composition and terms of reference were revealed, prompting accusations that the announcement was a political move aimed at shoring support.

The issue has been bandied about in the media for nearly six months since Feb 10 when Sabah BN leader Bernard Dompok first announced the Cabinet’s decision to form the RCI.

Mahathir said today whatever the inquiry’s outcome is, the ruling coalition would not be exonerated.

He claimed the RCI could also work in favour of the opposition which was doubling efforts to penetrate Sabah, a key state to wresting federal power.

“If the findings fall in favour of the government, the opposition will say it’s manipulated and if it is against, the government will get it in the neck,” he said.

According to replies provided in Parliament last year, Sabah’s population numbered 651,304 in 1970 and grew to 929,299 a decade later. But in the two decades following 1980, the state’s population rose significantly by a staggering 1.5 million people, reaching 2,468,246 by 2000.

Media reports said that as of 2010, this number had grown further to 3.12 million, with foreigners making up a 27% or 889,799 of the population.


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