PETALING JAYA: Any move to resettle Palestinian refugees in Malaysia should be limited to the peninsula and not involve Sarawak, says a state minister.
Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said his comments from earlier this week, asking a federal minister from Sarawak and an NGO “not to jump the gun” over the matter, did not mean he was in favour of accepting Palestinian refugees in the state, The Borneo Post reported.
Karim said it was simply because there had been no official talk yet by Putrajaya about taking in Palestinian refugees.
“In my defence, if the federal government says they want to accept refugees, I will be among the first to come up with a statement to say, please don’t consider Sarawak, do it in West Malaysia first.
“Don’t look at it as if I am supportive of (taking in) refugees. But as I mentioned much earlier, it is an issue of humanity,” the Sarawak tourism, creative industry and performing arts minister said.
Karim said his support for Palestine did not mean he believed that Sarawak should accept its people as refugees. He added that help can be offered to them in other ways.
Previously, a coalition of civil organisations in Sabah and Sarawak called for the government to properly vet asylum seekers from Palestine to ensure that militant and radical elements are not allowed entry.
Peter John Jaban, of the Sarawak Association for Peoples’ Aspiration, said the state government should safeguard its autonomy over immigration control, even as Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim continued to show support for Hamas.
Federal works minister Alexander Nanta Linggi reportedly supported this stand, saying Sarawak does not need to accept refugees, particularly those from countries known for violence, anger and hatred.
Umno Youth chief Dr Akmal Saleh later hit out at Nanta and demanded that he retract his statement and apologise.
Karim later said NGOs should wait for the federal government to make a decision on the matter before issuing statements.