Special passes may see eclipse of ‘genuine’ Sabahans, says rep

PBS information chief Joniston Bangkuai says Sabahans should be concerned by Putrajaya’s decision to issue special passes to 600,000 foreigners.

KOTA KINABALU: An opposition assemblyman has slammed the federal government’s decision to issue special passes to foreigners in Sabah, saying they would eventually eclipse the number of “genuine” Sabahans.

Joniston Bangkuai, the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) assembyman for Kiulu, said issuing the special passes to foreign nationals to remain in the state was tantamount to allowing them to multiply.

“This would alter the state’s population demography, with the possibility of outnumbering locals and eventually putting them at a disadvantage,” he said today when commenting on the government’s announcement that it would issue the Pas Sementara Sabah (Sabah Temporary Pass) to more than 600,000 foreign nationals starting next June.

However, in a response this evening, Warisan treasurer-general Terrence Siambun said Bangkuai had missed the point of the special temporary pass, which is to determine the number of immigrants and keep track of their movements.

“This way we can better regulate and monitor them instead of hollering about an issue that is long known to everyone and then sweeping it under the carpet.” He said the number of illegal immigrants in Sabah had been rising ever since the days when PBS was in government.

Bangkuai, who is also the PBS information chief, said Sabahans had “every reason to be alarmed and concerned” with the decision to issue the new passes.

Last week, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the government would the special passes would be replace three types of documents currently being held by documented foreigners in Sabah: the IMM13 issued to refugees, the “kad burung-burung” and the census certificate.

It is estimated that about 600,000 people are carrying the three types of documents, out of about 1.1 million foreigners residing in Sabah.

Bangkuai noted that holders of the IMM13 were war refugees from southern Philippines who fled to Sabah in the 1970s. The 600,000 figure, he said, suggested that they had multiplied in numbers over the years.

“Imagine what the figure would be in three years,” he said.

Bangkuai noted that Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr had claimed that Sabah belonged to the Philippines and said that the large presence of Filipino illegal immigrants and war refugees from southern Philippines could prompt a “reverse takeover”

Bangkuai said the illegal immigrants were “hell bent” on remaining in Sabah as evidenced by their willingness to pay thousands of ringgit to obtain Malaysian identification documents through fraudulent means.

“Just weeks ago, it was reported that several individuals, including a National Registration Department (NRD) official, were arrested in Semporna, the hometown of Chief Minister Shafie Apdal, for allegedly helping illegal immigrants obtain Malaysian identification documents,” he said.

As such, he said all undocumented foreign nationals should be deported as issuing the special passes would not only lead to an increase in their numbers but also encourage more foreigners to enter Sabah through the backdoor.

Bangkuai urged the government to take immediate steps to deport the illegal immigrants in collaboration with the state government.

He claimed the Warisan-led government had begun what was recommended by the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into illegal immigrants, which was carried during the BN administration.

Siambun says Warisan will sort out the problem after BN slept through it

Terrence Siambun, who is a nominated assemblyman, contended that former chief minister Musa Aman and ex-PBS president Joseph Pairin Kitingan had slept over the issue after having chaired a technical committee tasked with compiling feedback and recommendations from the public and other groups.

He said Warisan would sort it out. “We cannot be emotional. We must be realistic and most importantly we must take progressive action.”

He said the current government is starting from scratch to understand the legal position of these people who hold the three different cards.

Siambun said the government has to determine how best to deal with sending back people to their home countries, and also look at the position of some who could be Malaysians at least via one parent.

“With a situation so complex the BN government, which PBS was very much a part of, did not even dare to resolve it although some directions were given by the RCI,” he said.