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Mahathir throws stones from a glass house

 | January 18, 2017

Foreigners can qualify for ICs provided procedures set out in the Federal Constitution and the Malaysia Agreement are followed.

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If we believe former PM Mahathir Mohamad when he said 700, 000 Chinese nationals would be given Malaysian identity cards, we can fall back on the law to keep things in perspective.

The law states that temporary residents can qualify for green ICs and permanent residents for red ICs, provided procedures prescribed by the Federal Constitution and the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 are followed. Foreigners can even become citizens and get blue ICs.

Around the time a royal commission was inquiring into the so-called Projek IC, Mahathir was quoted as saying he saw no reason foreigners in the East Malaysian state should be left out if the late Tunku Abdul Rahman could give citizenship to two million Chinese after 1957.

There are no parallels between Tunku’s supposedly two million Chinese, the 700,000 figure claimed by Mahathir and the 600,000 in Sabah that were allegedly given dubious ICs or 1MM13 “refugee” papers.

As the royal commission’s report on illegal immigrants makes clear, “syndicates and rogue elements” swamped Sabah with foreigners on Mahathir’s watch. He allegedly followed no procedures on the award of ICs and citizenship in Sabah during his 22 years as prime minister.

For example, on paper there are no Malays in Sabah. That’s why former state assemblyman Chong Eng Leong once asked where the 303,500 “Malays” in Sabah came from. He was citing statistics from the year 2000.

The “Malays” in Sabah include two men who were dragged to court in Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu – Salman Majid from Pakistan and Mohd Majid Kani from India. It transpired in court that both held blue ICs based on local birth certificates and both had Malaysian passports.

Citizenship in Malaysia, under operation of law, is not by birth but by descent.

The Federal Constitution, under Article 160, defines three categories of Malays: Malay-speaking Muslims born in Singapore or Malaya before Merdeka; Malay-speaking Muslims domiciled in Singapore or Malaya before Aug 31, 1957; and the descendants of the first and second categories.

Besides operation of law, there’s citizenship by registration, and this applies to those born in Malaysia to naturalised citizens.

Citizenship by naturalisation is for those born overseas and have gone through the gauntlet of green and red ICs after entering the country legally.

The 2010 population census by the Statistics Department showed there were only 1.5 million locals in Sabah. Of the 1.7 million foreigners, 700,000 had work permits, 400,000 were undocumented and 600,000 allegedly had dubious ICs or 1MM13 papers. The so-called refugees with 1MM13 papers numbered less than 80,000 people.

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