KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal has rubbished allegations that illegal immigrants have been given identification cards (ICs) that make them citizens.
Speaking to reporters after a meet-and-greet programme with people in Semporna today, Shafie said the allegations were used by the opposition to slander the state government.
“All we did was to help in any way we could. There are instances where local men married foreign women only to abandon the wife and children later.
“So, what would happen to these children? We must settle the problem according to the law.
“We don’t simply give them ICs, that is a lie. But these children are Sabahans and they have rights,” he said.
He said the more prevalent cases involved children who became stateless because their parents did not have marriage certificates.
This problem, he said, usually occurred in rural areas where couples were married by the local imam who did not have proper credentials from the state government.
“I have never instructed the National Registration Department (NRD) to give everybody ICs. We must uphold the law. All these allegations are perpetrated by the opposition,” he said.
He also said the opposition had been busy spreading rumours that all fire victims in the state would be given ICs, especially the illegal immigrants.
Following a series of fires that razed hundreds of houses in the past two months, rumours have circulated that most of the victims were illegal immigrants and the presence of NRD mobile offices at the site of the fires was an attempt by the government to legalise them.
Shafie said this accusation was absurd as nobody would want to burn down their house just to get a new IC.
“Personally, I don’t want fires because if their houses are razed, they will ask for new houses from me. If, coincidentally, during the fires, their ICs were destroyed, then of course the documents will need replacement.
“But it is not true that we will give illegal immigrants citizenship or even new houses. They will not get it.”
On the programme in Semporna, Shafie said it was aimed at bringing all relevant agencies and departments to people in rural areas as many of them have trouble travelling to the cities to solve their problems.
He said through the event, the people would be able to get more information on how they can settle their problems such as late registration, and others involving land and housing.
Shafie said more than 90% of the people’s problems in Semporna was related to land issues and land applications.
“Problems like land encroachment, overlapping applications, family members who did not get their fair share of the inheritance – these are some of the more common problems here.
“There are also some who claim that the government, through government-linked companies, has grabbed their land.
“These are all serious allegations and problems that cannot be solved in one day and need more information. But this is a good start and we want to solve their problems eventually,” he said.
Shafie said similar programmes would be held in other districts in Sabah soon.