Number of foreigners in Sabah a ticking time bomb, warns minister

Sabah Rural Development Minister Ewon Benedick shakes hands with a guest at the Upko family day in Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: At least 28% of Sabah’s 3.6 million population is made up of foreigners, state Rural Development Minister Ewon Benedick revealed today.

He said he was deeply concerned by the number, describing it as “a ticking time bomb” unless resolved immediately.

“To make things worse, we were recently shocked by the news that the police have arrested a syndicate, involving a National Registration Department (NRD) officer, offering birth certificates and identity cards using falsified documents,” he said after attending the Upko family day here.

Benedick, who is also the Kadamaian assemblyman, said that if true, the government officer involved in the syndicate had committed a treasonous act against the country, at par with the conduct of the individuals involved in the Tanduo intrusion in 2013.

He urged the police to complete the paper work as soon as possible so that the culprits could be brought to court.

Sabah deputy police chief Zaini Jass revealed yesterday that the activities of the three men, believed to be part of a syndicate operating since early last year, were uncovered after a 35-year-old man in the Semporna east coast district was offered a birth certificate for RM3,500 and an IC for RM6,000.

Police detained the suspects, aged between 32 and 43, in Semporna on July 23 after the man lodged a report. The NRD officer, aged 43, is with the Semporna office.

Among the items seized from the suspects were genuine late-birth and IC registration forms obtained from NRD as well as several stamps purportedly belonging to government departments and related agencies.

Among the 34 stamps seized were those supposedly from the Sabah Islamic Affairs Department (JHEAINS), the Tawau and Semporna hospitals, the native court, NRD, commissioner of oaths, district health office and village chiefs.

Benedick regretted the actions of such individuals especially because, as Sabahans, they had the responsibility to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty.

“If we want Sabah to be free of illegal immigrants, we should be part of the solution. We need to make sure our homes, our orchards and economic activities and our villages are free of illegal immigrants,” he said.

He acknowledged that the illegal immigrant problem was a complex issue that must be handled more effectively.

He said the Sabah Cabinet had discussed the problem several times, including proposals by the technical committee set up under the royal commission of inquiry into illegal immigrants in Sabah.