By BORNEOTODAY REPORTERS
KOTA KINABALU: Parti Bersatu Sabah and its leaders seem to have selective amnesia on the so-called “mother of all problems in Sabah”.
They seem to have forgotten that they carried out a massive registration exercise for illegal immigrants in 1987 and were responsible for issuing the now-controversial ‘Burung Burung’ card to migrants.
Two Parti Warisan Sabah leaders said that based on a local newspaper report, PBS was responsible for registering some 325,000 of these holders and now their families continue to hold these cards that gave them that gave them legitimacy to stay without any fixed date for them to leave the country. (Please refer to newspaper clipping)
Warisan supreme council member, Honorsius Joe Bosuin and Fred Gabriel, a founder leader of the party, said PBS leaders cannot run away from the fact that they were responsible for the mess which the Warisan Sabah-led government is now attempting to untangle.
PBS Kiulu assemblyman Joniston Bangkuai, his boss Maximus Ongkili, Radin Malleh, as well as Sabah Progressive Party Yong Teck Lee, MCA’s Chew Kok Woh and other critics should wake up to the fact that they all failed in trying solve the migrant problem 30 years ago.
“The problem still festers and all one has to do is get a copy of the 2013 Royal Commission of Inquiry into Sabah’s migrant problem to look into the facts,” said Bosuin.
“PBS and successive Barisan Nasional government led by Sabah Umno’s Musa Aman miserably failed to work with the federal government but were only good at making issues when they did not anything,” he added.
PBS under Joseph Pairin Kitingan was busy gaining political mileage by using the migrant issue and fighting the federal government under the fourth Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad – that is history.
Musa on the other hand was keeping his businesses of state undisturbed by pleasing Najib Razak and failed miserably to resolve the migrant problem by asking Putrajaya to tackle it.
“The Warisan-led government is now seriously working on it with the federal government to look at solutions recommended by the RCI to solve migrant problem that has festered for five decades.
“The first step is to identify who and where they are – thus offer Special Sabah Pass to bring the various migrants – refugees, economic and stateless – under one card,” Bosuin pointed out.
From here, both the federal and Sabah governments have to sit down and work out ways to resolve the various groups of migrants who may include children from unregistered marriages with locals.
It is extremely complex where many are not being accepted back by their home countries, the two leaders said in a statement issued Saturday.
The migrant/stateless population is wide spectrum of problems ranging from unregistered inter-marriages with locals, abandoned children (now adults) by foreign workers that has left Sabah vulnerable.
It has to be dealt with humanely – does Johnity, Joniston, Jeffrey and others – want to put the 600,000 poople in ‘Rumah Merah’ and wait for their countries of origin to accept.
“Imagine the cost that will be incurred and the logistics,” said Fred, who added that previous Sabah governments as well as the critics could only talk of the problem, but failed to lift a finger to attend to the matter.
“The fact of the matter is that this group of people can still be used for labour through proper documentations. There is no need for more to be brought in to meet labour needs.
“The PSS is not about giving citizenship but handling the issue pragmatically and humanely in accordance to the laws of the country.”
If only PBS resolved the problem back in 1987 instead of playing just politics, the numbers would not have ballooned and become this severe, the two leaders charged.
“Yong as chief minister did a regularisation exercise, but what happened? Why did the problem remain unresolved? Barisan even held an RCI – what happened? Why has ex PBS president Tan Sri Joe Pairin Kitingan remained quiet about his role in the RCI,” enquired Fred.
Bosuin and Fred reminded the critics that making statements in the media was nothing but a cheap ploy to tarnish the present government.
“We are proud and happy that Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Mohd Shafie bin Apdal is doing something to clean up the mess left behind by the others, and one day, his sincerity in doing this Herculean and unpleasant task will prove the critics wrong,” they added.
Just to remind PBS and others, here was what was reported in the Daily Express on Jan 13, 2013 during the RCI hearings in 2013. Think deeply, the problem is not as simple as catching them and sending them back.
THE FULL REPORT: –
KOTA KINABALU: The Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on Illegal Immigrants in Sabah was told that the Parti Bersatu Sabah State Government registered 325,000 mostly undocumented foreigners during a census exercise from 1987 to 1992.
Testifying at the public hearing here, Monday, former head of the Settlement Unit in the Chief Minister’s Department, Abd Jaapar Alip, said a study on the transient population in Sabah was conducted in 1987 that also involved registration of foreigners.
It was done in two phases with the first being a census conducted in collaboration with the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) by going to houses where suspected illegal immigrants were staying.
The second phase was to register them for the issuance of the Temporary Registration Card.
According to him, those registered in the census would be asked to fill up a form after which they would be given the Temporary Identification Receipt, which was popularly known then as “Kad Burung-Burung” due to the Kingfisher bird State emblem imprinted on it.
After all the particulars in the forms had been keyed in into the computer at the unit’s office the Temporary Registration Card would be issued and the “Kad Burung-Burung” returned back to the unit.
To a question by Conducting Officer, Manoj Kurup, Abd Jaapar said the document was not recognised by the National Registration Department (NRD) as a valid identification document.
For the record, Manoj is one of the three Conducting Officers appointed by the Yang di Pertuan Agong to assist the RCI. The others are Dato’ Azmi Ariffin and Jamil Aripin.
“It was issued to all foreigners of various nationalities,” he said.
He also admitted that the census exercise was actually to find illegal immigrants in the State.
Earlier, he said the Settlement Unit (then known as Settlement Division) was established in the Chief Minister’s Department in 1976 during the Berjaya Government mainly to look after the five Filipino refugees’ settlement scheme located in Kinarut, Telipok, Kampung Bahagia Sandakan, Kampung Selamat Semporna and Kampung Hidayat Tawau.
The unit was the authority in determining refugee and displaced people status up until 1984 where the number of people given such refugee status was 73,000, he said.
He said there were five criterion for an individual to be qualified as refugee namely those who came from Region Nine, which he explained was Southern Philippines; those who are directly involved in conflict; arrived in Sabah between 1970 and 1984; must be a Muslim and; “willing to stay permanently in Sabah.”
When asked, he said those “applying” to be given refugee status sometimes came by themselves or brought by others from among themselves.
Asked why the period was only up to 1984, he said it was because hostility had stopped in the southern Philippines that year.
The applicants would be interviewed by specially trained personnel of the unit, he said, adding that often these people would not have any identification document.
“It was only based on their words,” he said, adding that the decision would be made by the person who conducted the interview.
After a person was found to be qualified, a Registration Acknowledgement Receipt would be issued and the application form submitted to the Immigration Department for the issuance of IMM13 document or known then as Social Work Pass, he said.
After the Immigration Department had issued the IMM13/Social Work Pass the refugees would be called to return the Registration Acknowledgement Receipt to the unit and take their IMM13/Social Work Pass.
According to him, the unit had kept a record of all the serialised receipts issued from 1976 to 1985.
Refugees who wished to stay in one of the five settlement schemes would be issued with the Settlement Identification Card although it is not recognised by the NRD as a valid identification document, he said.
Abd Jaapar said that by September 1985, the State Government had directed that the exercise to be stopped with immediate effect.
Asked if he knew the reason for it, he answered in the negative.
“But there was a change in State Government (PBS took over the State Government from Berjaya),” he said, adding that shortly after the unit was tasked to handle the “Kad Burung-Burung” through the study on transient population.
Abd Jaapar said that in the course of the study they also discovered there some 9,000 refugees who were left out from the 1976-1985 registration exercise.
“We raised the matter to the higher authorities and discussions were held with them such as the Immigration Department É and the decision was to allow us to review the list and see if there were those qualified to be given refugee status,” he said.
He said there was a standard operating procedure (SOP) which had been discussed and agreed upon by the Immigration Department that served as guidelines in the processing the refugee status.
However, Abd Jaapar said as of 2007 he did not know whether the 9,000 people had been issued with the IMM13 to give them the refugee status because he was transferred to the Water Department in 2008.
He told the RCI panel that when he was transferred the forms had yet to be sent to the Immigration Department for processing.
“I don’t know,” he said, adding he was replaced by Mohd Jairi Jaya when asked by RCI Chairman, Tan Sri Steve Shim.
Shim then asked the Conducting Officers to think if it was necessary to subpoena Abd Jaapar’s successor to testify in the public hearing before the RCI.
Meanwhile, when asked by the Conducting Officer the reason the unit did not refer the 325,000 illegal immigrants detected during the census in 1985 to 1992, Abd Jaafar said the unit had in fact also provided the information to the relevant authority.
“Maybe the IDS had also done it,” he said.
He also did not think that the Federal Special Task Force (FSTF) was set up to take over the duty of the unit because if it were, the Settlement Unit would have been closed down.
Apart from the five main refugee settlement schemes, he said there were about 33 refugee villages throughout Sabah.
The unit did not include the refugee settlement scheme in Kampung Muslim Labuan after it became a Federal Territory, he said.
Right after that, Shim adjourned the proceeding due to an emergency, which was later found only to be a bomb scare.