KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 16 — Instead of next month, Putrajaya should release the long-awaited report on Sabah’s illegal immigrants issue immediately, in time for the document to be tabled in Parliament before it ends in two weeks, several Pakatan Rakyat (PR) MPs said.
The lawmakers said they want the report, which contains crucial findings by the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the influx of immigrants into the east Malaysian state, to be dissected, debated and passed by federal lawmakers in the legislative house.
DAP’s Lim Kit Siang, a veteran politician who has been fighting the issue for a good part of his career, even called it “completely unsatisfactory” that the federal government had chosen to sit so long on the RCI’s report, when it was already completed in May this year.
He pointed out that the issue has haunted Sabah for decades now, and has caused the state “grave” security, social and economic problems.
“It is not a signal that the government is serious and sincere in resolving the longstanding issue of illegal immigrants in Sabah, which has completely changed the political demography in the state,” he told Malay Mail Online when asked to comment on Putrajaya’s decision yesterday to make the report public early next month.
“And it would appear that the whole thing - the release - was timed to be made after Parliament and Sabah state assembly meeting,” the Gelang Patah MP pointed out.
At a function in Sabah’s capital of Kota Kinabalu yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said after taking into consideration the seriousness of Sabah’s illegal immigrants issue, his Cabinet had agreed to making the RCI report public.
But, he said, the report will only be released early December, despite previous reports that the document would be tabled in the current parliamentary session.
The current and final session in Parliament this year ends on November 27, while the Sabah state assembly’s final session of the year ended last week.
“So I think it’s most irresponsible as to why the report which has been presented for more than six months is still not ready for release,” Lim remarked.
He was referring to the submission of the RCI’s report to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong and prime minister in May.
Lim said that a “good practice” of a transparent and accountable government would be to release it on the same day.
PKR MP Darell Leiking also urged the prime minister to bring forward the release date of the RCI’s report, saying it is a “serious” issue that requires debate in the ongoing Parliament session.
“I think the first thing that the PM should do is before Parliament ends, table the report in Parliament since public funds were used in the RCI,” the Penampang MP told Malay Mail Online, adding that the public should be allowed to debate the report in Parliament through their elected representatives.
“No need to delay next month, next year...We have two more weeks of Parliament, table it and release it simultaneously to the public,” the PKR vice-president added.
In such a Parliament debate, the prime minister would be able to explain the problem in Sabah, while MPs would be able to seek answers from him and provide recommendations, he said.
He said the report should also be tabled in the Sabah state assembly by the Sabah Chief Minister, despite noting that the illegal immigrants problem has now become a national issue.
Even states in the peninsula appear to be faced with the problem of illegals, he said, as some of the foreigners who obtained their citizenship in Sabah are now residing outside the state.
PAS MP Datuk Mahfuz Omar said he was puzzled why the government had to wait until the end of this year’s parliamentary session to make the report public, and even suggested a special debate like what was done for the MH17 air tragedy.
“If want to table next month, should call a special sitting to debate this issue because this issue is no longer a Sabah issue, but it has become a national issue,” the Pokok Sena MP told Malay Mail Online, later adding that the necessity of setting up a parliamentary select committee could be decided in the sitting.
Mahfuz said the government could alternatively file a special motion in Parliament to extend the sitting that ends on November 27, adding that at least two days should be set aside to debate the RCI report.
The PAS information chief said this issue has gone beyond partisan concerns, explaining that it was of national status as the RCI was set up at the federal level and federal funds were used to conduct the inquiry.
During the RCI’s proceedings, which started in January last year, testimonies from Filipinos and other immigrants revealed how they received their blue identification cards or the MyKad — which is proof of citizenship — in just a few years after arriving in Sabah and how they had also voted in elections.
The Commission headed by Tan Sri Steve Shim Lip Kiong, who is also former Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, was set up on September 21, 2012.
It had called 211 witnesses including former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim before closing the case on Sept 20 last year.