KOTA KINABALU: The debate continues on the government plan to issue the "Sabah Temporary Pass" or PSS to immigrants who have resided in the state, without using documents from their country of origin.
By June next year, the government will begin issuing the PSS to holders of three specific documents, supposedly given to 600,000 immigrants in Sabah, without any passports or any form of papers from their country.
The government believes it will help regulate the presence of the immigrants as the PSS will allow for proper data collected while the document will have biometric features of each holder, something that are not available in the three documents.
Of the three documents, the IMM 13, is a temporary visit pass issued by the Immigration department, the "burung-burung" issued by the Chief Minister's Department and the census certificate by the Prime Minister's department Federal Special Task Force.
Most holders of the documents are Filipinos but there are also Indonesians with the census certificate.
Parti Bersatu Sabah president Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili urged Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal to find a better excuse over the decision to issue special passes for refugees from southern Philippines in the state.
"He (Shafie) said the PSS is issued to enable the government to closely monitor foreigners in the State, so what has the enforcement agencies been doing all these while?
"Don't tell me the police, marine, immigration and ESSCOM (Eastern Sabah Security Command) have not been doing their jobs … I thought they are the ones who are supposed to check, monitor and send the illegal immigrants back to their countries of origins?" he asked.
Ongkili said issuing the PSS is tantamount to giving illegal immigrants the Permanent Residence status.
"Do not 'gadai' (pawn) Sabah to the illegal immigrants. Sabah is ours, we need to protect this state for the good of our future generations," he said in a gathering in Sugut.
In questioning the special pass, Ongkili is intrigued about who would benefit from it and what are the processes and selection criteria.
"Who are these people? What are the criteria to be given a pass? PBS fear that the PSS is a prelude to give them permanent residence status, and eventually citizenship. If this happens, we will lose Sabah to the illegal immigrants, they will populate our state," he said.
As such, Ongkili reiterated PBS' call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the issuance of citizenship documents in Sabah.
"These alleged 600,000 illegal immigrants must first be screened, registered and deported. They can only come back through the proper way," he said.
Ongkili added that Sabah is open to foreigners, but they must enter the state through proper channels, and free itself from illegal immigrants.
United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun and Murut Organisation deputy president Senator Datuk Donald Mojuntin said there have been negative reactions from the ground on the move.
It's a step towards solving the presence of illegal immigrants in Sabah but the reaction from the grassroots is a cause for concern, he said.
"The people's main worry is that the issuance of this temporary identity document or PSS would make it easier for illegal immigrants to eventually obtain Malaysian citizenship.
"These worries stem from the suddenness of the announcement and from so many things that the rakyat are not clear with.
"For example, they know that IMM13 documents were issued to Filipinos fleeing from civil strife in the southern Philippines in the early 70s. But it's been nearly nearly 50 years and the situation in the southern Philippines have been stable for a long time already. Why are these IMM13 holders still here? " he said.
Holders of IMM13 are allowed to remain as they were granted exemption from the passport requirement in the 1970s under the Immigration Act. IMM13 was a one-off exercise to cater to war refugees.
Mojuntin also said there is also a need to determine what were the "burung-burung" and FSTF census certificate.
"Why were these documents issued in the first place? Who were they issued to? This question is important because if these documents were issued to illegal immigrants, then allowing the holders of these documents to apply for PSS now is tantamount to legalising these illegal immigrants.
"Another crucial question is are burung-burung and sijil bancian legal identity documents according to the laws of Malaysia? If so, when did they become so? Are these documents renewable or a one-off issuance?"
Another pertinent question is are holders of PSS eventually allowed to apply for Malaysian citizenship, he said.
Mojuntin urged that any move to issue identity documents to foreigners or immigrants must be done in a transparent manner.
"Otherwise, the rakyat's perception will always be negative, despite good intentions on the part of the government.
"If the Ministry of Home Affairs wants to provide a solution to this perennial problem, it should be transparent with to Sabahans who are being overwhelmed by the presence of at least 1.7 million immigrants."
The people should be informed sufficiently and clearly how effective any government policy is to curb and resolve the Sabah illegal immigration problem once and for all, he said.