KOTA KINABALU, May 3 ― Sabahans, particularly the indigenous community, are very worried over how the Sabah government plans on handling the illegal immigrant problems in the state, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s Sabah coordinator Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor said today.

In defense of his criticism against the legalisation of foreigners in the state, the Sulaman assemblyman said the latest proposal by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, to place illegal immigrants at islands close to the border, has only heightened the anxiety.

“As an elected representative, I was expressing the feeling of the people who are displeased or disagreed with the approaches or proposal undertaken by the government in dealing with the PATI issue,” he said in a statement today.

PATI is the Malay acronym for illegal immigrants.

Hajiji, who is the former state local government and housing minister, said this in response to  Deputy Home Minister Datuk Azis Jamman, who yesterday criticised him for “behaving like Umno” and attacking his own party president’s ministry.

“If what I had said has to do with a state government programme that is still at a proposal stage, then it should not be implemented because the people are objecting to it and disagree with the approach and the proposal.

“But, I saw in social media, so many people ― foreigners ― coming to see the Commissioner of Oath including in Tuaran to have their personal document certified for such dealing.

“This is to the extent that there were people so worried by the incident and lodged police reports because they were concerned over the presence of so many foreigners,” said Hajiji.

The former Umno assemblyman said that he was doing his job as an elected representative to voice their concerns, and should not be perceived as an attack on the Warisan state government as alleged by Azis.

He said that instead of being worried about it, they should take it as positively.

“Why does the state government need to feel offended if the thing is untrue?

“If the policy, programme and approaches to be taken by the government in dealing with the PATI issue, the legalisation and stateless people gets negative response from the people, as it may erode their rights and affect their interests as indigenous people and Malaysian citizens, then it should not be continued,” he said.

Hajiji said that more priority should be put on developing the economy of the people and the state, instead of on matters like preparing islands close to the border for foreign immigrants and refugees as well as on giving documents to them.

Yesterday, Azis chided Hajiji saying that the latter should remember that he is now with Bersatu and not Umno, in response to a video of Hajii’s speech at a party event spreading on social media.

In the video, Hajiji said he disagrees with the government’s plan to document illegal immigrants, insisting that any documentation must come from the country of origin, and that the state government has no business giving out documents to these people.

Azis clarified that the documentation drive was only a proposal to address the stateless problem in the country and not an attempt to make citizens out of illegal immigrants flooding Sabah.

He added that if approved, the proposed programme would come under the purview of the Home Ministry and that its minister was Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the president of Bersatu.