KOTA KINABALU, July 5 — Former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said that he could have solved all the problems pertaining to the presence of the illegal immigrants in Sabah and in Malaysia if he had a magic wand.

Claiming Lim Kit Siang has a grudge against him, Pairin said he was flattered when the DAP veteran leader had demanded him to explain what he had done via the Committee on Illegal Immigrants established by the Barisan Nasional (BN) government of which he was the appointed chairman.

He clarified that his committee was only a technical committee. The main and decision making committee was under the chairmanship of the prime minister and the Sabah chief minister as the deputy chairman.

“I conducted several meetings whilst receiving many proposals and suggestions via memorandum submitted by political parties, organisations and indviduals.

“All those proposals and suggestions, I considered to be meritarious and worth considering by the government via the Main Committee. So I conveyed my views to the prime minister, the chairman of the Main Committee for its consideration and final decisions,” he said in a statement today.

Pairin, the founder of Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), was replying to the statement of Kit Siang who has asked him to explain publicly what he did for four years as the chairman of the Working Committee on the Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) investigating Sabah’s longstanding problem with undocumented immigrants who were granted citizenship in return for votes.

The veteran DAP leader attributed Pairin’s rise to be Sabah chief minister in 1985 and subsequent fall a decade later to the large-scale scheme conferring Malaysian citizenship to illegal immigrants in exchange for their votes to the then ruling party, widely known as Project IC.

“If not for the nightmare of the illegal immigrants on the electoral rolls, Joseph Pairin would not have been forced out as chief minister, and at least half a dozen of Sabah chief ministers who subsequently occupied the high office would not be Sabah chief ministers,” Kit Siang said in a statement yesterday.

Pairin said that among all the political problems that Sabah faced at that time in 1985 and before that was the problem of illegal immigrants, who were allowed entry into Sabah by the lackadaisical enforcement of the immigration laws and closing one eye or by tacit encouragement.

“The history of how Sabah people, genuine Malaysian citizens and political parties fought against the onslaught of these illegal immigrants or PTI as they are popularly known is very well known and documented, last but not least by the hearing of the RCI conducted in 2014.

“The RCI hearing confirmed the huge problem of the presence of the illegal immigrants and revealed without doubt that there was a deliberate political agenda through what is now popularly known as Project IC.

“Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was prime minister for a lengthy period of 22 years before he was again sworn in as prime minister with the support also of the political party known as DAP in 2018,” he pointed out in his statement.

Pairin added that in his report and press statements and speeches, he had all the time emphasised on sincere enforcement of the laws, especially the immigration laws and “we should always be guided by the principle of prevention is better than cure”.

“The question always is: do we ever care? Have we really done so? “Let us all be reminded that Mahathir is fond of stirring water that is calm and still.

Our Constitution is very clear on how a government is formed and elected by the people.

“The leader of the party who commands the majority in the elections qualifies to be sworn-in as the chief minister of Sabah. Yet Mahathir ignored the provisions of our State Constitution and introduced the rotation of the chief minister’s post, to the confusion of the people in Sabah and the whole of Malaysia, and in the democratic world! “This literally damaged the economy of Sabah, its democratic system and divided the unity among the citizens which we all tried to achieve all this while among Malaysians,” he said.

Mahathir is believed to have played a role in the collapse of the PBS-led government in Sabah in 1994 when mass defections took place from the party to BN.

In his statement, Pairin also recalled that when he was sworn in as the chief minister of Sabah in 1985, he cancelled the restriction immigration order against Kit Siang and allowed him freedom of movement under the law in Sabah.

Kit Siang, an opposition political leader, was then denied entry to Sabah by the then previous government under Datuk Harris Mohamad Salleh. — Borneo Post