KOTA KINABALU: Photos of a crowd flooding the National Registration Department (NRD) counter in Keningau went viral on social media yesterday, raising fears that it is an attempt to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants.
In an audio recording, a man, claiming to be on the ground, said people have been flocking to the Keningau community hall the whole day, bringing their personal documents to apply for MyKad.
The photos were taken during the “A Day With the Chief Minister” event, attended by Chief Minister Shafie Apdal. Several other government departments also opened counters there.
The photos showed people of different races gathered in front of officers manning the NRD counter.
According to sources, the NRD counter received the highest number of visitors during the one-day event.
The Land and Survey Department’s counter was also popular.
A local who visited the event raised concern that although many of those who went to the NRD counter were locals, some looked suspicious and did not look like locals at all.
However, an NRD official, when contacted, said it was not true that MyKads were issued at the counter.
He said the counter was only to check the status of applications for various documents, such as birth certificates and MyKad.
“Many did not have proper documents, including birth certificates, to prove citizenship. For late birth registration, they did not have supporting documents from other agencies, including village chiefs or JKKK,” he said.
Nonetheless, the presence of a mobile court, operating from a bus, at the event raised more fears that illegal immigrants were using the opportunity to get their documents endorsed by the court before forwarding these documents to the waiting NRD officers.
These mobile courts not only hear civil and criminal cases, but also provide other services that are normally available in a regular courtroom, like attestation of documents, statutory declarations and filing of cases.
At the same time, the mobile court also provides legal advice and assists rural communities by drafting letters for people who need assistance, especially in correspondence with other government agencies.
Some netizens said this facility could be abused to get as many documents endorsed as possible to enable them to get their MyKad, even if they are foreigners.
Despite all these negative comments, the mobile court can only endorse documents and not issue documents as some have speculated.
But this did not stop the people from speculating that the state government is conspiring to start another Projek IC, a term used to describe the allegation of systematic granting of citizenship to immigrants by giving them identification cards in the 1990s.
Such accusations have been widespread ever since Warisan took over the state government in May and have continued to spread despite numerous denials by Shafie and other Warisan leaders and ministers.
Deputy Home Minister Azis Jamman even ordered the police to investigate claims that he had given approval to collect information from illegal immigrants in order to issue them identification cards.
“I have ordered police to investigate this matter. If we find out who is behind this, we will arrest them and take stern action,” he said earlier this month.
However, Azis’s statement was largely condemned as it was seen as an attempt to stop people from speaking up against what they perceived as a wrongdoing by the government.
Some Warisan supporters, on social media, have called on Shafie to cease carrying out similar events for now to avoid the spread of these rumours.
In spite of this, during the first such event in Semporna earlier this month, Shafie said such an arrangement was important to help the people in rural districts get the opportunity to solve their problems with government departments and agencies.
Semporna does not have an Urban Transformation Centre, which serves as a one-stop centre for government departments.
Keningau completed its UTC building last year. It will house 10 government departments and agencies, including the NRD.