|NAJIB’S COUP IN SABAH|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 17 August 2012 00:14|
FOR ONCE the opposition is muted. And it has fumbled in its reaction to Prime Minister Najib Razak’s weekend announcement of a sweeping investigation into Sabah’s longstanding illegal Filipino and Indonesian immigrant problem.
The inquiry under a royal commission will take six months to find out whether a million foreigners have become Malaysian citizens through the backdoor, swelled the north Borneo island state’s population by a third to 3.2m, and unduly helped government electoral support.
The unexpectedly wide scope of the RCI was met with awe and disbelief of many. But Sabahans feel vindicated and have come away with a sense of satisfaction that their prime minister is on their side.
“It’s sufficient,” says Chong Eng Leong, a former stalwart of Joseph Pairin Kitingan's Parti Bersatu Sabah, adding that what matters most is to know the number of “blue identity cards” given to them illegally and “how they got into the electoral roll, with a view to expunge them.”
It was Chong, now a member of Anwar Ibrahim’s opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat, who in 1999 got the Kota Kinabalu High Court to nullify the 1998 election of Yong Teck Lee, leader of the opposition Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), to the Likas state seat because illegal immigrants had voted for him.
The eight terms of reference of the inquiry will take a five-man investigating team headed by Steve Shim Lip Kiong, a former chief judge of the high court of Sabah and Sarawak, back to the 1970s. Thousands of Filipinos had then sought refuge from a civil war between the separatist Moro National Liberation Front and the Filipino government in the southern Philippines.
In the 1980s the Sabah government under the defunct Berjaya party opened a floodgate of migrant workers from the southern Philippines and Indonesia under an “open door” policy. An economic boom sparked by buoyant export prices of timber and commodities such as cocoa and palm oil needed thousands of workers for the state’s construction, forestry and agriculture. Sabah, which then had less than a million people, was short of them.
Pairin, the Huguan Siou (paramount leader) of the indigenous Kadazandusuns and Muruts, fell out with Harris Salleh, the Berjaya chief minister, over his unrelenting fight to stamp the tide of illegal immigration. That led to the birth of PBS.
The RCI is Pairin’s idea, federal leaders including Chua Soi Lek, the president of the Malaysian Chinese Association, have pointed out. “It was PBS and Joseph Pairin Kitingan who first campaigned for the RCI,” says Chua. “Anwar (when he was deputy prime minister) opposed it when it was first brought up by PBS in 1994.”
Sabahans share their chief minister Musa Aman’s sentiment that Najib means business. “He walks the talk and does what he says he will do,” says Musa. The investigation won’t end with the RCI. But Najib needs Sabahans’ overwhelming electoral support to bring them the reforms that they seek.
And Pairin, the Grand Old Man of Sabah politics who celebrates his 72nd birthday on Friday, has remained steadfast in his quest for a definitive solution to Sabah’s illegal immigrant woes. (Insight Sabah)
|Last Updated on Friday, 17 August 2012 00:16|