Enough of forums, act now on illegal migrants issue, says Sabah activist

There are enough laws to deal with the illegal migrants problem in Sabah, says indigenous rights activist Verdon Bahanda. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: An indigenous rights activist has hit out at the delay by Putrajaya and the Sabah government in dealing with the illegal migrants problem in the state.

Verdon Bahanda said that while the federal ministers had been able to order a crackdown against undocumented migrants in the peninsula, the same had not been carried out in Sabah.

Commenting on a call for a forum to seek solutions to the problem in the state, Bahanda asked: “Why is it that even when no forum is held in peninsular Malaysia, the federal leaders are able to launch a crackdown on these migrants?

“I think this is not the time to hold another forum as many have been held before. It is time for the government to take action, as there are already enough laws to resolve the problem.”

Sabah indigenous rights activist Verdon Bahanda.

Bahanda said he was disappointed with the unending squabble by Sabah’s political leaders over the long-standing issue.

A war of words has erupted here between the Sabah opposition and the Warisan state government over opposition leader Jeffrey Kitingan’s plans to deal with the problem.

Jeffrey, the STAR president and deputy federal tourism, arts and culture minister, had proposed a forum to resolve the problem once and for all after the Covid-19 situation has improved.

Bahanda, however, agreed with Jeffrey that the squatter colonies in Sabah served as safe houses for the illegal immigrants, and the state government had given more attention to them than the indigenous communities.

He said it was “irregular” for the National Registration Department (NRD) to be quick to process MyKads for those staying in the squatter colonies after several fires recently.

During these fires, he said, the occupants had been able to save their TV sets, beds and other big items “but not the smaller items like birth certificates or MyKads”.

He said this happened under Pakatan Harapan rule, when the chief minister was also Shafie Apdal, and the deputy home affairs minister was Sepanggar MP Azis Jamman.

Bahanda also took to task leaders in the ruling Sabah coalition for continuously blaming the previous Barisan Nasional government for the illegal migrants problem.

He said such statements are “a slap to the face” for Shafie as he was an Umno vice- president before leading Warisan.

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