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Sabah RCI just a red herring

 | June 19, 2012

It is the circumvention of the Federal Constitution article on citizenship that is the main issue.

COMMENT

The on-going probe into a bogus MyKad scam at the Tawau National Registration Department (NRD) has been touted as a timely curtain-raiser to the proposed Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the illegal immigrant phenomenon in Sabah.

It has been hailed as proof enough that the federal government means business on national security.

In fact, it’s nothing of that sort.

The RCI is not about bogus MyKads flooding the state, or the “rampant” issuance of citizenship which has emerged as another red herring, but rather the alleged circumvention of the Federal Constitution article on citizenship by operation of law.

The federal government cannot be “faulted” for issuing citizenship – naturalisation – through the normal process to foreigners in Sabah. However, it can be faulted if it wants such people to be treated as Sabahans.

The correct procedure would be for Putrajaya to issue citizenship to permanent residents in Sabah only upon recommendation by the Sabah state government.

The federal government cannot take the initiative on this unless it wants to treat such foreigners as Peninsular Malaysians in which case those affected would not have Sabah permanent residence status. They will then be subject to the normal visa and work permit regulations to safeguard local jobs.

The federal government cannot issue Special Passes, temporary residence permits (green cards), permanent residence status (red cards) or citizenship to foreigners in Sabah without the prior written recommendation and consent of the state government, which must be the initiating party, on a case-by-case basis.

Twice-born people

There’s no evidence that the federal government indeed received any such prior recommendation and consent of the state government. In any case, the politics will not allow it.

If the federal government receives applications directly from foreigners in Sabah for Special Passes, green and red cards or citizenship, it’s duty-bound to advise the applicants to go through the state government and not go off at a tangent and act unilaterally.

In Sabah, much of the rot allegedly stems from the fact that many people are “twice-born”, once in their home countries and the second time in Sabah.

Their “second birth” is recorded in a late registration birth certificate by way of a Statutory Declaration (SD) wherein the applicant falsely and fraudulently claims to have been born in Sabah.

By this seeming laxity on the part of the NRD and the court, the imposters avoid having to apply for citizenship. How can the NRD accept the contents of a SD as the Gospel truth when it’s nothing but wholesale perjury, that is, lying under oath?

A simple NRD checklist can easily weed out the fraudsters: ancestral kampung? The name of the kampung head and names of those in the Village Security and Development Committee? Names of family members and close relatives? Photographic evidence? Schools attended?

This was not done.

This is an open secret in Sabah and as evident in cases which have been heard or more accurately part-heard in court.

General amnesty

It’s a mystery how the “twice-born” could have obtained their MyKads without being sponsored by their parents. All applicants for MyKads meant for Malaysians would have to produce their parents’ MyKads and birth certificates.

To cut a long story short, and before the RCI begins, the government should offer a general amnesty to all those who illegally and fraudulently obtained Malaysian personal documents in Sabah.

The errant parties should be willing to come forward and remove their names as well from the electoral rolls and surrender their documents in return for Special Passes – valid for six months at a time and renewable indefinitely for a maximum of 18 months during which time they must return to their home countries and may re-enter, if they wish, but legally after a blacklisting period of five years.

If they entered Sabah by the backdoor, they must be encouraged to return the same way to avoid the risk of complications like statelessness. Those who entered legally and overstayed should also return home by the backdoor.

Those who cannot return for any reason should be on Special Passes for life, their children should only be entitled to temporary residence permits for life, their grandchildren should only be entitled to permanent residence for life, and only their great grandchildren should be eligible to apply for naturalisation but in Peninsular Malaysia.

The general amnesty should also be extended to those who issued such documents and voluntarily come forward.

Those who issued such documents should voluntarily surrender their citizenship status in return for permanent residence status for life.

Their “crime” should affect the status of their children and grandchildren as the case may be.

Probe political interference

A fine of at least RM500 should be imposed on foreigners and RM5,000 on Malaysians involved in the fraudulent issuance of Malaysian personal documents and the monies collected should go to the Sabah state government.

The precedent for the general amnesty, partly, was a similar offer in Peninsular Malaysia in 1965. A fine of RM300 each was imposed.

If one obtains a Malaysian personal document to which one is not eligible or not entitled to obtain under the law and the Federal Constitution, the said document would be a nullity in law from the very beginning. In law, it’s as if the said document was never issued.

No passage of time, even over generations, will whitewash an illegality and make it legal.

The onus is on the perpetrator to come forward and face the system without waiting for the long arm of the law to catch up with him or her sooner or later. Perpetrators should not hope for the declaration of a general amnesty which may or may not materialise.

The long arm of the law can catch up with any perpetrator by way of a judicial review by any citizen to revoke the “citizenship” of anyone not entitled to hold it or not eligible to obtain such a document. In such a situation, the perpetrator is faced with all sorts of eventualities including being blackmailed for life by any applicant seeking a judicial review or ending up in a legal twilight zone as a stateless person.

The main focus of the RCI should be on late registration birth certificates obtained by Statutory Declaration, the “Malay” category in the Sabah statistics on demography and the number of people which the Philippine, Indonesian and other governments refused to take back on grounds of statelessness.

The RCI should also probe the number of stateless people and temporary residents in Sabah, the NRD, Immigration Department, police, court and Election Commission procedures to deal with illegals and foreigners.

The RCI should also probe the extent of political interference in dealing with the illegal immigrant phenomenon in Sabah.


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