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Posted on 22 September 2013 - 08:50pm
WHEN a senior Police Officer makes an official statement that he found himself as if in a foreign country when he visited certain villages in Sabah, the stark reality hits you in the face.
When Supt Mohd Azman Mohd Sapri remarks that he and his team felt "threatened" and that they felt that Kampung Bangau-Bangau near Semporna in Sabah was in Zamboanga (Philippines), it amplifies the problems and repercussion caused by the entry of illegal immigrants.
If it had come from a lesser officer, it could be dismissed lightly but when it comes from the Head of the Police team investigating claims about illegal immigrants, one is compelled to fathom the damage it has done and will continue to do to the sovereignty of the nation.
Sitting through the last nine days of the Royal Commission of Inquiry and learning more about the problem, one can see the spillover effects and how it can change the economic and social framework of the state.
On Saturday, I picked up a copy of the Borneo Post and the front page shows clear proof of the problems. The lead story was on the conclusion of the RCI but what appeared alongside under the heading "Police nab false MyKad maker in Tawau" gives an accurate picture of the multitude of problems faced by the authorities.
The man who was nabbed had been previously convicted, jailed, caned and deported, but found his way back.
Sitting over steaming hot bakut teh in the evening, one cannot ignore the fact that the little ones who serve food and drinks have not even reached puberty.
"Berapa umur bah?" was the question.
"Dua belas," was the answer.
"Dua belas," was the answer.
Before she could answer whether she goes to school, she gets chided by a man who is re-heating the broth.
"He is the father. The mother is at the back washing dishes. The entire family works here. They are not Sabahans, they are Suluks," says the local who took me there.
At the golf courses in Sabah, I was told, some of the caddies were as tall as the golf bags. Having no school to attend, they accompany the elders to the course where the only requirement is to be able to carry about 12kg in weight.
Other witnesses at the RCI testified that foreigners have taken over jobs, trading places and even business operations. On Thursday, a lawyer representing the Sabah Law Association charged that "public transport operations are monopolised by foreigners."
While the panel headed by former Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Steve Shim Lip Kiong says its recommendations will be ready by the end of the year, what happens during the interim?
Mohd Azman testified that people still land in one of the many landing points along the porous coastline and that many of them acquire fake papers by dubious means. So, haven't we learnt enough, especially with the Lahad Datu invasion in March?
For the Sabahans, it is an issue and the presence of foreigners impedes on their status as legitimate citizens, some of whom don't even qualify for the many privileges that the aliens enjoy. (The RCI was told that some of the foreigners have even invested in the Amanah Saham Nasional which is exclusive to the bumiputra community.)
It's not animosity but a sense of helplessness which has descended on them. Despite successive Chief Ministers reporting the problems to Putrajaya, no action was taken because political expediency over-rode the rule of law.
Even before the RCI can finish its task, the cynicism is overbearing when one talks to locals. They talk about RCIs before this and ask: "What happened to the findings and recommendations? Will they be implemented?"
There is little to offer comfort and solace to their long-suffering except that an undertaking be given by the federal government that the RCI's recommendations will be implemented without delay.
This needs political will and determination which has been in short supply, especially over the past three years.
Having said that, there have been calls from some quarters for the "humanitarian" element to be taken as a consideration when the decisions are made, but it should not be at the expense of legitimate citizens.
Even the Head of the National Registration Department recommended that those who attained documents fraudulently be given an amnesty and that their papers be "legalised". This is absurd and unfair to the thousands of Malaysian-born people who have not been issued proper identity documents.
While many of us who were born and bred in this country (this writer included) took the long and winding path to attain citizenship, it will be a travesty of justice if holders of blue identity cards which were traded in coffee shops are made citizens.
R. Nadeswaran's three sojourns to Sabah were enough to listen to the plight of its people. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org