While opposition SAPP is flogging its plan for Sabah IC's for genuine Sabahans, Umno vice-pesident Shafie Apdal says it will be counter-productive.
KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) has justified its plan to issue ‘Sabah identity cards’ to bona fide Malaysians in Sabah as the only solution to overcome the illegal distribution of national identity cards to foreigners.
The opposition has insisted there is an urgent need to differentiate Sabahans from the dubious document holders who are on the electoral rolls as voters and have managed to sway past elections in favour of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.
SAPP leader Yong Teck Lee said his party plans to wipe out the discrepancy between the will of genuine Malaysians in the state and that of newcomers who have been granted citizenship illegally and forced to vote for those in power for fear of being deported if the opposition forms the next Sabah government.
He said the plan would serve as a check against unqualified foreigners influencing the outcome of any election and the future of the country.
Yong’s plan however came under immediate fire from Umno vice-president Shafie Apdal.
“Why should we? We are a nation already. If (we say) Sabah is for Sabahans and Perlis is for Perlis people, the (nation) won’t go anywhere,” Shafie said.
Yong however stressed that new Sabah IC system would differentiate legitimate citizens of Sabah origin from illegal immigrants who hold Putrajaya-issued identity cards and would be used for all official purposes.
The former Sabah chief minister said the authority (of the state government) to issue identity cards was guaranteed by way of the 20-point Malaysia Agreement of 1963.
He noted that past identity cards have always indicated the place of issuance was Kota Kinabalu or Jesselton as the state capital was known before it joined the Federation of Malaysa, Sarawak and Singapore in forming Malaysia in Sept 16, 1963 unlike now.
Meanwhile SAPP’s tresurer Dullie Marie told a press conference here the party’s plan was to ‘safeguard the genuine Sabahans’.
“This (plan) is to safeguard the identity and rights of genuine Malaysians in Sabah. It must be addressed assiduously with full conviction and political will,” Marie said.
He said the issue of giving dubious identity cards had been going on for decades only to be denied time and time again until the recent establishment of Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to investigate the matter acknowledged there is credence to the allegations.
The opposition and its supporters are however doubtful that the Umno-controlled federal government is committed to resolving the issue pointing to how Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s administration has dragged its feet on the matter since announcing the RCI earlier this year.
Earlier this week Shafie who is also the Semporna MP cemented their misgiving when he was quoted saying: “We can’t even control the (Filipino militant separatist group) Abu Sayyaf and illegal migrants from entering Sabah, so why (are) we trying to control Malaysia.”
While acknowledging that the 20-point agreement – which, among others, controls the movement of Malaysians from the peninsula to Sabah and Sarawak – he said a new identity card would be counter-productive.
Shafie recounted how in the early 1980s he brought his wife who is from Kedah to Sabah. “I had to join one immigration line for Sabahans and she was in another for people from the peninsula” even though she was his wife.
Marie said that the statement by a federal minister from Sabah was an admission of failure by the federal government to provide security and prevent illegal migrants entering the state.
He said this was confirmed by federal secretary Abu Bakar Hasan who said that out of the 151,849 arrivals in Sabah through the Tawau port in the first eight months of this year only 120,980 had left and 30,869 persons were unaccounted for.
“For the year 2011 at Tawau alone, 217,453 entered but only 165,857 departed, leaving behind a staggering 52,857 immigrants unaccounted for. How about the other years and other ports of entry,” Marie asked.
He said this was the reason Umno top leaders could boast that “Sabah is a fixed deposit for Barisan National”.
The issue is seen as an election game changer given Sabahans’ growing anger over the surrender of the state’s oil wealth and the erosion of state rights including immigration control guaranteed by the 1963 Malaysian Agreement.
“This should not be perceived as disloyalty Datuk Shafie or other leaders,” said Marie.
The new Sabah IC proposal is one of SAPP’s responses to Pakatan Rakyat’s promise to restore Sabah’s autonomy.
SAPP is not an official Pakatan component but the Sabah-based party has an unofficial “working relationship” with the opposition coalition parties which are all headquartered in the peninsula.