KOTA KINABALU, Dec 4 — Local leaders are pressing the state and federal governments to explain the apparent inaction over Sabah’s perennial problem with illegal immigrants despite the release of report by a royal inquiry on the subject a year ago.
Politicians from both sides of the divide are complaining of the lack of action since the release of the findings by the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI), with some claiming the entire investigation to be just a ruse with no substance and authority to solve the issue.
“The people of Sabah are obviously not happy with the progress following the RCI report. It has been a year now and looks like the people do not know what happened or which direction the committee is heading for and what recommendations they are making.
“We must be transparent over this monstrous issues that has bedevilled the people of Sabah for decades,” said Minister in the Prime Minister’s department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup when contacted by Malay Mail Online.
“As far as I know, there have been no consultations between the stakeholders such as NGOs or other political parties. To me, this is a national issue in which even the opposition should be included,” said the Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) president and Pensiangan MP.
Sabah Progressive Party president Datuk Yong Teck Lee said the people have not seen any progress on the issue and were waiting on the technical committee that was tasked with compiling recommendations and feedback.
He further questioned why the committee was unable to make any headway, pointing out that its composition included powerful government leaders such as the chief minister and the home minister.
“People are obviously entitled to feel cheated by the entire RCI fiasco. It is a waste of money, waste of time and dashed hopes,” the former Sabah chief minister said, adding that Umno’s internal strife appeared to be distracting the party from efforts to address the local issue.
The long-awaited RCI report on Sabah’s illegal immigrant issue was finally released here on December 3 last year, six months after the royal panel presented its findings from the inquiry to the prime minister and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
The panel recommended that a permanent secretariat be set up to manage the various issues concerning illegal immigrants in the state.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi then announced that, at the recommendation of the RCI panel, a technical working committee and a permanent committee was set up last December to deal with the problem of illegal immigrants.
Zahid, who is also deputy prime minister, was to co-chair the permanent committee with Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman while Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan is the head of the technical committee tasked with compiling feedback and recommendations from the public and other groups.
In October, Pairin said the report was in its final stages of completion and that a special Sabah identity card was among its recommendations. He is expected to submit a report to a permanent committee before the end of the year.
The permanent committee will then study the recommendations and improvement proposals submitted by the working committee before bringing them to the federal Cabinet, and to monitor the implementation of the Cabinet’s decision.
United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) information chief Albert Bingkasan said that while he believes Putrajaya and the state government have every intention of addressing the problem, the slow pace of action was worrying.
“The slow progress of concrete action since the RCI report is a cause for concern. I wish action will be carried out as prompt as possible despite the limitations.
Bingkasan acknowledged that security and enforcement officers were working on the ground to flush out illegal immigrants from the state through near daily raids, but said the lack of larger policy decisions stemming from the RCI’s findings was cause for concern.
Opposition leader and Bingkor assemblyman Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan went further by saying that the inaction was an affront to the RCI as it portrayed the panel as having been formed to whitewash the issue of illegal immigrants in the state.
“Naturally members of the public are asking a lot of questions. What is happening to the report’s recommendations? What is the state committee headed by Pairin doing? When is the government going to act on the recommendations forwarded by the various groups?
“People are fed up with the inaction of the government in continuously promising to solve this issue. Pairin should inform the public what is happening,” he said, referring to his brother.