Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’ timing over the setting up of Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the illegal immigrants in Sabah has come under question.
Sarawak PKR leader Baru Bian while welcoming the RCI said the “timing of its implementation is questionable.”
“I welcome the formation of RCI as this is what the people of Sabah including the BN and Opposition leaders want, but I question the timing of its implementation.
“RCI has been delayed for a long time. But why it is being carried out now?.
“It just seems like the setting of RCI is being done now because the Prime Minister is scared that it will become a major political issue in Sabah.”
Bian was commenting on Najib’s recent announcement of the RCI and its Terms of Reference (TOR) during an interview on Radio Free Sarawak.
Said Bian: “I think it has become Najib’s political dilemma now as a number of BN leaders are leaving the Barisan Nasional because of the government’s reluctance to carry out investigations on the influx of illegal immigrants to Sabah.
“And this (leaders leaving BN) triggered the formation of RCI. I believe that Najib is doubtful whether the BN can win or not in Sabah, if RCI is allowed to delay any longer.”
Bian who is Ba’Kelalan assemblyman said what will interest observers is whether or not the RCI will be “courageous enough to call leaders such as (former prime minister) Dr Mahathir (Mohamad) to testify.”
He said Mahathir was a crucial witness because he was the one allegedly involved in ‘Project IC’ in Sabah when thousands of illegal immigrants were registered and given ICs (identity cards).
“What we want to know is whether this was Mahathir’s own project to change the politics of democracy in Sabah,” said Bian.
Legalised illegals in Sarawak
‘Project IC’ is also known as ‘Project M’ to indicate Mahathir’s involvement in the issuance of identity cards to illegal immigrants in 1990s.
Bian also pointed out that it is equally important to know what the government wanted to do with these illegal immigrants if it was proven that they were given the identity cards.
“If nothing is done to arrest the problem, then such problem will spread to Sarawak and even to Peninsular Malaysia. With 800,000 or so having identity cards, these illegal immigrants can vote anywhere in the country.
“This is what we fear,” he said.
In Sarawak, the PKR leader said that there existed some illegal immigrants given identity cards, but the problem is not that serious.
“But I must warn you that we will face a similar problem that Sabah is facing now if we are not careful.
“There are already signs of it in Sarawak,” he added.
On the mandate given to RCI to complete the inquiry in six months, Bian believed that the report would be produced in Parliament in November.
“I don’t think the election will be held before the report is tabled in Parliament, because Najib is not confident of winning the next election.
“He is using the report to win back the support for the BN, and we can expect the election to be held early next year,” he said, saying that it would be good for the PKR.
Nevertheless, Bian called on all PKR grassroots leaders and divisions and units in the state to worker harder.
The RCI will be headed by former judge of Sabah and Sarawak Steve Shim Lip Kiong who will be assisted by former University of Malaysia Sabah (UMS) vice-chancellor Prof Dr. Kamaruzaman Ampon, former Sabah Attorney General Herman Luping, former Sabah State Secretary K.Y. Mustapa and Crime Prevention Foundation Henry Chin Poy Wu.
The commission’s secretary is Saripuddin Kasim, who is the secretary-general of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry.
The mass issuing of ICs to illegal immigrants was said to have actively begun when Umno established its foothold in Sabah in 1990s.
Known as ‘Project IC’ it was to alter the democratic pattern of Sabah to make it more favourable to the ruling government and certain political parties, especially with regards to changing the electoral voting patterns.
Due to the sudden increase of Muslim voters in Sabah, the popular Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) government headed by Joseph Pairin Kitingan was toppled in 1994.
Sabah’s population of 651,304 in 1970 grew to 1.5 million in 1980, reaching 2,468,246 by 2000. By 2010, the population has further shot up to 3,117,405 showing an increase of 400%.
In Sabah, the problems posed by illegal immigrants who have been given identity cards are the number one election issue in the coming election.