KOTA KINABALU: Sabah leaders have questioned Putrajaya’s insistence on going ahead with the controversial plan to issue identity cards to foreigners in the state.
Former chief minister Yong Teck Lee said he was surprised by the home minister’s push on the matter when the Sabah government had yet to decide on it.
“Why the rush to push for an identity card for migrants?” the Perikatan Nasional deputy chairman told FMT, adding that it was the state government’s right to have a final say.
Yong, who is the SAPP president, said the federal government should focus instead on deporting undocumented migrants currently in detention centres and on efforts to prevent new migrants from illegally entering Sabah.
Sabah deputy chief minister Joachim Gunsalam said the government should “first and foremost” close loopholes enabling illegal immigration into the state.
The Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) vice-president reiterated his party’s call to set up a bipartisan committee in the state legislative assembly to find an acceptable solution to the migrant problem.
In defending the proposal earlier, home minister Hamzah Zainudin said it was time the issue over migrants in the state be addressed through new solutions.
He said the government’s intention to create a specific card for foreigners was solely in the interest of Sabahans.
Chief minister Hajiji Noor said Hamzah was referring to a matter on which the Sabah government had yet to make a decision.
Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) vice-president Kenny Chua said Putrajaya should work on issuing the Sabah IC to genuine citizens instead of prioritising foreigners.
“Undocumented migrants should be deported, not given documents so they can prolong their stay here,” he said, adding that he was referring as well to “kad burung-burung” and census certificates.
Former deputy chief minister Wilfred Madius Tangau called the plan a manifestation of a half-baked policy and said the government should ensure that it understands the migrant issue before going ahead with it.
The Tuaran MP explained that the problem over migrants in Sabah could be divided into four categories, namely the continuous entry of undocumented migrants, the presence of refugees, the status of stateless persons, and the existence of people who obtained identity cards through dubious means.
“You have to address these four categories separately,” he said.