Sabah leaders welcome massive operation to flush out foreigners in the State
Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) President Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Pairin Kitingan welcomed the announcement by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak of an impending massive operation to rid Sabah of illegal immigrants. He said the people of Sabah have been hoping for such an action from the Federal Government all this while in resolving the long overdue problem once and for all. Pairin, who is Deputy Chief Minister cum Rural Development Minister, said the presence of a high number of illegal immigrants for a long time now has really burdened the people apart from creating numerous social ills and criminal activities. He reckoned that the operation should be carried out systematically based on the political will of the Barisan Nasional (BN) led Government. “It is important for the Federal Government to set a time frame in resolving the illegal immigrants problem so that continued and consistent efforts can be taken towards achieving the Government’s Zero Poverty target,” said Pairin. He said the authorities have been facing difficulty in determining the exact number of illegal immigrants in Sabah due to the lack of any record on them. “The figures made by various quarters keep on changing and, at one time, their numbers were estimated at between 600,000 and one million. As such, concrete efforts must be made to determine their actual numbers,” he said. He felt a census drive should be done with the involvement of various relevant departments and bodies to determine the actual number of illegal immigrants as well as those foreigners with permits to work in the State legally. PBS Vice President Datuk Dr Yee Moh L Chai said the decision to take action against illegal immigrants is “timely and long awaited.” “It is certainly a move that is moving towards the right direction. It will definitely resolve the illegal immigrants problem in Sabah,” he said. “Let us hope that this will be the first of many such actions until the problems related to illegal immigrants are resolved.” According to Najib, the operation would cover all identified foreign nationals who have no valid personal identification documents either from their homeland or from the Malaysian Government, and that they would be deported to the country that is willing to accept them. “It’s better late than never”. This is how Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) President Datuk V K Liew described the Government’s plan to launch a massive operation to flush out illegal immigrants in Sabah soon. “This is a welcome news. It comes as a relief for the people of Sabah,” he said. The high number of illegal immigrants in the State was a longstanding issue which Sabahans were unhappy about. This issue has been used by Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) President Datuk Yong Teck Lee as one of his political weapons to criticise the leadership of the Federal Government. In announcing the massive operation in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the operation would cover all identified foreign nationals who lacked valid identification documents, either from their homeland or from the Malaysian Government, adding that Liew said the move was a testimony of the Government’s sincerity in solving the illegal immigrant problems, once and for all. “I believe we have a lot to learn from the operation (Ops Nyah) which was initiated by former Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat between 2001 and 2003,” he added. Another former Chief Minister, Datuk Salleh Said Keruak also welcomed the move, saying it would bring a ray of hope to the people and the State. “But, this should be done on a regular basis and not on ad hoc basis. The Sabah people have been clamouring for a lasting solution to the problem for so long, and we hope the massive operation will bear fruit,” he said. United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (UPKO) Deputy President Datuk Wilfred Bumburing said the announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister was a bold and concrete step to solve the problem of illegal immigrants in Sabah “although it seems to have come a little late as the issue was long overdue”. He suggested a three-dimensional approach for implementation, which needed a continuous and comprehensive action program. “First, to immediately stop the influx of illegal immigrants by blocking all known entry points and guarding our shoreline against any illegal entry or intrusion”. “Second, deport immediately those who are currently here, without detaining them for any period of time,” he said. Bumburing also suggested that the Government resolve the issue of MyKad or identity cards (ICs) illegally issued to foreigners. “We have had RTD (Road Transport Department) officers arrested in illegal issuance of ICs, which prove that there are people in possession of ICs who are illegal. I still believe that a Royal Commission of Inquiry is the best solution to resolve this issue,” he added. Meanwhile, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Vice-President Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said the move was long overdue. “The Government should not divert the attention to illegal immigrants as the real problem was ‘Project IC’.. .that should be the focus. The illegal immigrant issue is a normal problem. In concurring with Dr Jeffrey, Consumers Association of Sabah (Cash) President Datuk Patrick Sindu said the Government should set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry on illegal immigrants in Sabah to get to the root of the problem and subsequently address it effectively.