KOTA KINABALU: Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Jeffrey Kitingan today urged Sabah leaders to work with him and the federal government to solve the long-standing illegal immigrant issue in the state.
Jeffrey, who is also Sabah opposition leader, said instead of picking a fight with him, the state government should welcome the resolve by the Perikatan Nasional administration to effectively address the problem nationwide.
He said this after a barrage of criticism against him by state coalition leaders yesterday for suggesting the current Sabah government was the cause of the influx of illegals into the state.
The STAR president and Keningau MP, however, stood by his stand that the state had policies that were friendly to illegal immigrants but denied he had accused it of being the reason for Sabah’s perennial problem.
“There are reports spun by portals, especially those associated with Warisan, that made me sound like I accused Warisan of being the root of the problem.
“What I’m saying is the attitude or policies of the government are encouraging illegal immigrants to come here. That’s why the problem will not be solved if the government has these kinds of friendly policies.
“So (to the leaders) don’t twist what I said, the people are wise to judge for themselves. What is past is past but now we want to resolve the issue so give your support, including the portals, instead of quarrelling,” Jeffrey said here today.
Warisan secretary-general Loretto Padua had yesterday questioned whether Jeffrey had forgotten when the illegal immigrant problem started, accusing him of politicising the issue.
The party’s treasurer-general, Terrence Siambun, also criticised Jeffrey’s plans to organise a public forum to find effective solutions to the issue, saying many were held before and that now was a time for action, not further discussions.
Jeffrey defended his intention to hold the forum, saying he was especially excited because there was a vigor in the new leadership in Kuala Lumpur to resolve the matter.
“Because of this attitude, it is the right time to hear the feedback and grouses from the public again. If I don’t do it then people will question what am I doing despite being a deputy minister.”
He said the suggestions from this forum could be used to push the federal government to act. “The forum is not for me or my political interest.”
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