Sabah Opposition leaders question special pass for foreigners

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (right) and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal last week announced that Sabah would replace the likes of IMM13, 'Sijil burung-burung' and the census pass with the PSS. — Bernama pic
Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (right) and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal last week announced that Sabah would replace the likes of IMM13, 'Sijil burung-burung' and the census pass with the PSS. — Bernama pic

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KOTA KINABALU, Sept 9 — Opposition politicians here criticised the government’s move to introduce a special temporary pass (PSS) to be issued to foreign nationals in the state, saying that it will alter the state’s demographic once again.

Parti Bersatu Sabah information chief Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said that issuing the passes to foreign nationals to remain in Sabah was tantamount to allowing them to multiply.

“Sabahans have every reason to be alarmed and concerned.

“Who are the 600,000 foreign nationals to be issued with the PSS? Are they the so-called war refugees from Southern Philippines who fled to Sabah in the 1970’s? If yes, then the 600,000 figure suggest they have multiplied in numbers over the years.

“Imagine what the figure would be in three years following the government’s decision to issue them with a three-year PSS,” asked the Kiulu assemblyman in a statement.

He said that the pass, coupled with the existing Philippines’ claim on Sabah, is a cause for serious concern.

“It cannot be discounted that the large presence of Filipino illegal immigrants here and the Southern Philippines war refugees who remained in Sabah over the years could prompt a ‘reverse takeover’,” he said.

He also pointed out that there have been numerous reports about Filipino immigrants from Sabah entering Peninsula Malaysia using fake documents, making it a national problem.

Recently, the Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary’s reiterated that it had no plans to drop its claim on Sabah. A few months ago, the Philippines’ Ambassador to Malaysia had also said it has yet to drop its claim after paying a courtesy call on the Chief Minister.

“The federal leadership should view the large presence of Filipino illegal immigrants in Sabah as a potential national problem and initiate immediate steps to deport them in collaboration with the State government.

“Authorities should also be mindful of the fact that the illegal immigrants are hell bent on remaining in Sabah as evident from their willingness to pay thousands of ringgit to obtain Malaysian identification documents through fraudulent means,” said Bangkuai.

He said the foreigners should be deported under the law as issuing the PSS would also encourage more foreigners to enter Sabah through the “backdoor.”

“All foreign nationals without any travel documents who genuinely wish to return and earn a living here should re-enter Sabah with valid travel documents issued by their country of origin,” he said.

On Friday, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, along with Sabah chief minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal announced that the government would replace three documents — IMM13, Sijil burung-burung and the census pass — currently held by foreign nationals in the state, with the PSS in order to streamline its process and help enforcement.

Those with the existing documents could return it in exchange for a PSS, to be renewed every three years, at the cost of RM120.

Muhyiddin said that some 600,000 foreign nationals would be eligible for this pass.

A special task force will be set up to look into the details of the implementation, scheduled for June 2020.

Meanwhile, Sabah Progressive Party president Datuk Yong Teck Lee said that the official announcement was lacking in details but what seemed clear is that 600,000 was too big a number to cover holders of IMM13, and the Sijil burung burung.

“There were only 60,000 plus original holders of the IMM13. Some have died, some went back to the Philippines, some went to Kuala Lumpur. Some got MyKads. Even with their descendants, there cannot be more than 200,000.

“Sijil burung burung was issued during the Berjaya era when the Sabah state crest was changed to the Kingfisher bird. The number is small. Most other documented foreigners who are foreign workers have passports, even if their work passes might be no longer valid.

“So, the implication is that the government might be expecting that PSS will be issued to new arrivals. If so, this is bad,” he said when contacted.

Yong also said that the announcement failed to cover other pertinent issues such as the provisions of law under which it would be parked.

“Under which law will PSS be issued? The Immigration Act? National Registration Act? What provision in which law? Will the Malaysian government not coordinate this PSS effort with the countries of origin of these undocumented foreigners?” he questioned.

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