KENINGAU: The allegation that citizenship was given to illegal immigrants by the Sabah government under the leadership of Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Afdal is an accusation and propaganda by irresponsible quarters, said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Madius Wilfred Tangau.
He said the allegation was not true and the state government was working to address the problem on illegal immigrants.
He said this in his speech at the National UPKO Hari Raya celebration here yesterday.
Also present were Sabah Rural Development Minister Ewon Benedict, Liawan assemblyman Rasinin Koutis and Paginatan assemblyman Datuk Abidin Madingkir.
Madius was responding to the claim by Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) president Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan that Shafie is caring more about illegal migrants and their families than the locals in Sabah following his proposal to issue passes to illegal workers.
Shafie announced last week that the state government will look into issuing special documents to illegal foreign workers in Sabah to solve a labour shortage, particularly in the plantation sector.
He said a special committee chaired by the state secretary will detail the process of legalising existing illegal workers.
On another development, Madius said he had discussed with Mohd Shafie to ensure huge infrastructure projects , such as the Pan Borneo Expressway, should be continued and to further stimulate the state’s industrial sector to create more employment for the people in Sabah.
“We will enhance investments, especially the downstream activities in the oil palm industry, petroleum, logging, timber, rubber, etc,” he said.
Parti Warisan Sabah also rubbished the allegation made by a former Penampang parliamentary candidate that the state government’s decision to issue a special pass to foreigners has made the KadazanDusun community uneasy.
A party official said the STAR candidate, Cleftus Mojingol, did not appear to be able to differentiate between the issuance of a special work pass and granting citizenship.
Christopher Toguk Masudal, the special officer to the Penampang member of parliament Darell Leiking, pointed out that it was puzzling that Cleftus claimed that he represented the KadazanDusuns in Penampang when he lost his deposit at the last general election.
“He can’t even see that the proposal to issue the special pass is meant to regulate all foreigners in Sabah, whether legal or illegally. Perhaps his inability to understand issues is the reason why he was rejected by Penampang voters and fared badly during the 14th General Election.
“Regularisation of foreign workers in Sabah, including those illegal ones, had been done previously, including during the tenure of Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat as Chief Minister. If Cleftus wants to make noise about this practice of regularisation, then he should first get all his facts right from the former CM before making wild allegations against Darell.
“Perhaps he doesn’t have the initiative or he might just be plain lazy to make a thorough investigation on this matter, hence, he decided to argue on a racial context by throwing in the ‘KadazanDusun’ equation since that would be the easiest thing to say.
“So, I guess it was apt the Penampang folks rejected him in the previous election because he lacks the capability to see issues clearly in order for proper governance to take place,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Masudal also said that the issuance of the special pass may very well be the answer on the existence of some 800,000 PTIs in Sabah.
“Regularisation has nothing to do with the issuance of citizenship; no developed country in the world would be crazy enough to welcome the influx of illegal immigrants to their place as that would cause great demographic and socio-economic changes.
“It is the same here in Sabah, but with the issuance of the special pass, we just might be able to get the 800,000 PTIs hiding all over Sabah to come out and then prevent them from getting citizenship through the help of syndicates because they would now be recorded as foreign workers.
“We also need to enhance Sabahans so that they will get the best jobs as we rebuild the economy and regulating these illegal workers will give us the necessary data to resolve the long outstanding issue of who and who are in Sabah illegally, created by the previous government.
“And for this, I would advise Cleftus to procure a copy of the book ‘Lest We Forget’ written by Dr Chong Eng Leong, and identify who were the ‘Sabahans’ involved in giving citizenship to the illegal immigrants in Sabah,” he concluded.
Cleftus has reminded the Kadazandusun leaders in the Warisan-led state government that they would abruptly lose the confidence of the rakyat if they are “weak” on issues sensitive to the community, like the illegal immigrants.
He said the community is already apprehensive on their leaders’ weak stand on illegal immigrant issues, including on Warisan’s proposed ways to legalise them and to bring in more immigrants to Sabah.
“Voters in Penampang are already feeling uneasy about MP Darell Leiking’s assumed support on the suggestion by his president to give temporary identity cards to immigrants in Sabah,” he said in a statement here yesterday.
Cleftus who was also a former president of the now-defunct PASOK political party, said it is unfair for Darell to suddenly change his principles or stand now that the electorate do not have the avenue to pass a vote of no confidence against him as the next general election is still five years away.
“How could one go into an election pledging to safeguard the community’s aspiration, but when one wins, he or she go against his/her earlier stand and make excuses to justify a new stand that would not have made one victorious had the electorate known it earlier?”
“I have met folks in Penampang and elsewhere and they registered very strong opinion against elected leaders who behave differently or would sing different tunes once the people voted them in. They felt they were betrayed and taken advantage of,” he said.