Sabah DCM tells Immigration to explain dubious documents issue

Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Wilfred Madius Tangau (seated fourth from right) after a meeting with Sabah entrepreneurs, who will be going on a trade mission to China, at his office in Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government has summoned the state Immigration Department to shed light on two dubious personal documents currently being held by foreigners in the state.

Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Wilfred Madius Tangau said the state Cabinet had summoned department officials to attend its weekly meeting next week to explain about the ‘kad burung-burung’ and census certificate.

These documents, together with the IMM13 issued to refugees, will be replaced by the Pas Sementara Sabah (PSS), or Sabah Temporary Pass, in June next year, as announced by Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin last week.

Tangau said the Cabinet wanted the department to address “all the questions that have arisen”.

“We wish to hear their explanation on the status as well as validity of these documents, the ‘kad burung-burung’ and census certificate, which were issued by the previous government.

“These are also the questions the people would like to find out the answers to,” Tangau told reporters after a meeting with Sabah entrepreneurs, who will be going on a trade mission to China next week, at his office here today.

Muhyiddin had last week said the state government would form a special body to carry out the project. Currently, federal authorities estimate that about 600,000 people are carrying the three types of documents, out of about 1.1 million foreigners residing in Sabah.

Muhyiddin said the PSS would help to streamline the monitoring and enforcement process, adding that enforcement bodies such as the Immigration Department were having difficulties in enforcing the law because of the various types of documents held by foreigners in Sabah currently.

Tangau, who is also the state trade and industry minister, said, after listening to the explanation on the kad burung-burung and census certificates, the Cabinet would examine the plan to issue the PSS.

”Actually, I am just like you. I only know what I’ve read in the newspapers,” the Tuaran MP said, referring to the PSS.

As the pass would only be issued in the middle of next year, he said, there was still time to refine matters pertaining to the new special pass for documented foreigners in Sabah.

Meanwhile, the Sabah Law Society (SLS) said it supported the introduction of the PSS, calling it a “bold and progressive initiative” by the federal and state governments

Sabah Law Society president Roger Chin.

Its president Roger Chin said this was a step in the right direction towards regulating and eventually resolving the perennial issue of irregular or undocumented migrants problem in Sabah.

He said one major advantage of this process was that it would enable a weeding out of any of those previous passes such as IMM13, kad burung-burung and the census card which were wrongly issued or forged.

“The SLS firmly believes that if the state knows and is able to identify who the irregular or undocumented migrants are, then the state can manage law, order, security and resources more effectively.

“In this respect, the process and criteria for obtaining the PSS must be discussed with all relevant stakeholders in a transparent and accountable manner,” he said.

Chin said robust and ironclad safeguards must be implemented to ensure there was no abuse in the issuance of the PSS.

“Secondly, the SLS would like to point out that the issue of citizenship in Malaysia is provided for in the Federal Constitution.

“A foreigner cannot be granted Malaysian citizenship unless it is by operation of the law upon fulfilment of the strict requirements imposed.

“PSS ought not be construed as a grant of permanent residency or citizenship to a foreigner nor should it be exploited to be a stepping stone towards citizenship,” he said.

Chin acknowledged that there were general concerns about the length of time of each renewal being three years and whether it would be appropriate to reduce the renewal period to one year.