KOTA KINABALU: A witness told the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on Illegal Immigrants in Sabah yesterday that he was the grand engineer behind the exercise to recruit Malaysianised immigrants as new voters in Sabah, to topple the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) government in the 80s and early 90s.
Mat Swadi Awi, a 63-year-old pensioner from Ipoh, Perak, testified that he was assigned to devise the strategy to push PBS out of power, which included mainly distributing new pro-Usno voters in strategic constituencies across the state.
The former banker who told Harakah in February that former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed was also involved in the exercise, informed the RCI that he carried out the exercise believing it was his national duty, after receiving personal request from the late Tun Datu Mustapha Datu Harun and with consent from the then Deputy Home Ministry, the late Datuk Megat Junid Megat Ayub.
According to Mat Swadi, he planned and monitored the distribution of the new voters between 1987 and 1990, before pulling out after finding out it was being abused by certain quarters to unlawfully issue Malaysian identification cards.
“I was the main player, as I said in the Harakah interview. I was given the main role, which is to engineer the whole thing during Mahathir’s tenure. My first meeting with Tun Mustapha was in the middle of 1986, when I was serving as a branch manager for Bank Pertanian in Sabah.
“The first meeting was just a general introduction, then slowly political talk crept in as Tun assessed my political belief
and loyalty. Then he revealed his real intention and asked me to help to bring Usno back. Something has to be done to increase the number of Malay voters, and the way to do it was to source for new voters.
“Filipino immigrants, including those who were holding permanent resident status who had yet to be given citizenship, were naturally not voters, so they were the main potential source,” he said.
Apart from immigrants, he said the exercise also targeted Malaysian citizens including teachers, military and police personnel from Peninsular Malaysia to be registered as voters in Sabah.
According to him, the new voters were distributed with the help of the Election Commission to areas where Usno was weak, including Papar and Inanam, among others.
“I was the one who did the distribution. Some from the police, some others were teachers, and military, so not to be too obvious.
“I was not involved in identifying the target group and was warned by the big guns, Megat, not to go to the ground. It was the job done by JPN (National Registration Department). They were the one who know who should be Malaysianized,” he said.
Mat Swadi, explained that his role as the grand planner included analysing the data from the IC application supplied by the JPN, and decided where they should be registered as voters.
He would then pass the information to EC, as he also served as the middleman with the agency.
“My job was to design the strategy as well as ensure the machinery was properly deployed. I was not involved at all in producing additional IC to the immigrants. My job was just to analyse the data and plan which area they should be distributed to,” he said.
To a question, he maintained that about 20,000 new voters were sent to SPR to be registered as voters throughout his involvement.
He said most of them were immigrants but he could not say if they were illegal or documented and actually qualified for citizenship.
Asked why did he decided to pull out of the project later, Mat Swadi said he agreed to take up the job because he believed it was his national duty to serve the government of the day and that the project was carried out with a good purpose.
“But then I was called by SPR director after the last submission in Feb 1990, to validate the data to be used in the elections to be held that year. He clicked an IC number, 10 names came out. He clicked another one, 10 names came out, then another one and 15 names came out…
“He asked me, which one is the genuine one. I was taken by surprise and did not know how to answer him. He told me he was going to stop the whole thing. So did I, I stopped. The exercise was being abused,” he said.
Mat Swadi added that he had also heard of alleged syndicate in the JPN selling ICs to legal and illegal immigrants.
Conducting Officer, Jamil Aripin asked if the witness had met and heard from Dr Mahathir himself the approval for the said exercise, to which he answered ‘no’.
He agreed with Jamil that he could not have determined if Tun Mustapha and Megat were lying or telling the truth when they told him that Dr Mahathir consented or even have knowledge of the whole exercise.
Mat Swadi also testified that he did not have any knowledge if the exercise was still being carried out until today, contradicting Malaysiakini’s report, quoting him as saying that the similar exercise continued in Peninsular Malaysia, where Indonesians had been given citizenship and blue identity cards in Johor and were briefed to ensure Umno-BN won.
As to why he did not report the matter to the authorities after he back out of the exercise, Mat Swadi said all the top officers from the relevant agencies, including the chief of police back then, knew full well and were involved in the project.
“You would not get the approval for (the issuance of the ICs and their registration in electoral rolls) without the involvement of the agencies concerned,” he argued.