Illegal immigrants, crime shattering peace in Sabah’s villages, state reps say

A vendor at the Donggongon Tamu in Penampang, Sabah catches 40 winks during a lull in trading in this August 30, 2013 file picture. Illegal immigrant colonies such as the one in Kampung Buang Sayang have been causing sleepless nights for natives according to two state assemblyman. — Picture by Choo Choy May
A vendor at the Donggongon Tamu in Penampang, Sabah catches 40 winks during a lull in trading in this August 30, 2013 file picture. Illegal immigrant colonies such as the one in Kampung Buang Sayang have been causing sleepless nights for natives according to two state assemblyman. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KOTA KINABALU, Nov 10 — Illegal immigrant colonies such as the one in Kampung Buang Sayang is causing sleepless nights for natives, who live in fear of rising crime stemming from Sabah’s decades-old immigrant problem, two state assemblyman noted today.

For decades, Kampung Buang Sayang in Papar — home to some 6,000 Bajau, Kadazandusuns and Brunei Malays — was a beautifully rustic village of traditional fishermen, who went about their daily lives with no cause for worry except for the latest catch of the day.

But Sabah’s long-standing issues with illegal immigration are starting to irk local communities, who live fearing for their safety and culture.

“The ambience of the village has changed. The most obvious change now is the security fears in the village where I was born and grew up in. There is a colony of some 50 or so illegal immigrants who are living on a private piece of land that was supposedly rented out to them,” said Pantai Manis assemblyman Datuk Abdul Rahim Ismail.

“The illegal immigrants roam around the village, and the town area, the pump boats they use are becoming a common sight here,” he said when debating the budget 2015 at the State Assembly building here today.

Pump boats are notorious as the marine vessel of choice for Southern Philippine rebels and criminals in Sabah’s east coast due to their speed and silence.

“I’ve brought it up to the authorities before; the police, immigration and district office. I appreciate some steps being taken, but it is not enough to give confidence to the local residents,” said Abdul Rahim.

Kiulu Assemblyman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai agreed, saying that the illegal immigrant issue has taken a new turn.

“It used to be that they came here to look for livelihood. They came to look for work, but now they are multiplying, with some women giving birth to as many as 10 children, but they are not taken care of,” he said.

Colonies such as those in Kampung Buang Sayang are cropping up everywhere, not just in the city and suburban areas but even in rural villages.

Abdul Rahim said that if left unattended, the State will be susceptible to a lot of social ills — illegal drug dealing and consumption, theft and robbery and a “pump boat culture”.

“The reputation and dignity of idyllic villages like Kampung Buang Sayang needs to be restored and kept intact.

“The authorities need to ensure that Sabahan land owners do not rent out their land randomly to anybody and contravening the Sabah Land Ordinance,” he said.

The issue of illegal immigrants particularly from the Philippines has long been plaguing the State.

After years of debate, the Federal Government set up the Royal Commission of Inquiry to look into the issue of illegals in the State and the alleged Project IC — a systematic granting of citizenship to foreigners.

After hearing a total of 211 witnesses including former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and former chief ministers of Sabah Datuk Harris Salleh and Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, the hearing was completed in September 2013 but the report has yet to be made public.

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