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GOVERNMENT SINCERE: A precious Kaamatan gift for Sabahans, say state leaders
THIS year’s Kaamatan (harvest) festival for Sabahans was made more meaningful with the prime minister’s announcement of the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to look into the perennial illegal immigrants problem that has plagued the state for more than four decades.
Announcing this yesterday, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the government was committed to resolving the issue as it could affect the wellbeing of the people in Sabah.
The decision, he said, was made after taking into consideration the views from all quarters.
“It is hoped that the people of Sabah will take advantage of this RCI and, together with the government, come up with the best strategies and approaches to tackle the problem.
“The Attorney-General’s Chambers has been entrusted with the responsibility of coming up with the terms of reference (TOR) and the initial draft has been prepared.
“To ensure the RCI functions smoothly, I have asked the A-G’s Chambers to get views and feedback from all quarters on the draft before the TOR are finalised,” he said in a statement to Bernama.
Najib said the setting up of the RCI was a manifestation of the government’s determination to uphold the Constitution and rule of law.
It is reported that the estimated number of illegal immigrants in Sabah was above 500,000.
Sabah’s population had grown from about 650,000 in 1970 to about 3.1 million in 2010 with foreigners making up about a quarter of the total.
Many blame the population explosion to the illegal issuance of Malaysian identity cards to immigrants.
In Kota Kinabalu, Roy Goh reports that Sabah Barisan Nasional component parties have consistently called for the formation of an RCI and had been waiting for Najib to announce it ever since the Federal Government
agreed to its establishment in February. Among the key figures touted to sit onthe RCI are Chief Judge for Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum and former Human Rights Commission of Malaysia vice-chairman Tan Sri Simon Sipaun.
Sabah leaders have described the RCI as a “precious Kaamatan gift” for the people and reflected the government’s seriousness to solve the problem once and for all.
“I believe every section of society is happy with this announcement and I hope Sabahans will accept the decision with an open heart,” said Sabah Umno deputy liaison chief Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak.
Salleh, who is also Sabah Legislative Assembly Speaker, hoped the setting up of the RCI would not be politicised. “We should give time and ample opportunity for the committee to carry out its investigation and duties,” he said.
Parti Bersatu Sabah deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said it was a “much welcome news for the people of Sabah”.
“It is a fulfilment of a decade of requests, especially from us in Parti Bersatu Sabah. This formal announcement confirms that the Federal Government is sincere.
"As a member of the (federal) administration and deputy president of PBS, I commend and salute the prime minister for his boldness in confronting the illegal immigration problem in Sabah and its associated problems -- citizenship, security, socio-economic, health and political. This is yet another strategic component of the prime minister's national transformation agenda."
United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation secretary-general Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau said members of the RCI must be individuals of calibre.
"For the same reason, the terms of reference must be comprehensive enough to cover investigations into burning issues and pertinent questions, such as the extraordinary increase in the population of Sabah.
"The input of BN component parties must be seriously taken into account in the formulation of the TOR and in the composition of the members of the RCI," Tangau added.
Sabah BN secretary Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan said the issue had long been pursued by the top leaders of the coalition.
"This issue needs to be concluded and the prime minister's announcement shows the government is actively pursuing it," he said.
Liberal Democratic Party president Datuk Liew Vui Keong said the positive development augured well for the security of the nation.
"We will need to look into the whole issue to ensure our sovereignty will never be undermined or compromised by the presence of illegal immigrants since the 1970s.
"Of importance is the measures that must be taken to deal with the thousands of stateless children left behind by their parents. We cannot deny that some of them have grown up and are part of our society."