Sabah RCI set to hear 48 witnesses starting Monday

Saturday, 12 January 2013

The much-awaited RCI is limited in scope, as such it will strictly investigate the number of immigrants in Sabah who have been issued identity cards or citizenship.

KOTA KINABALU: The city police are making preparations for the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) hearing on the illegal immigrants issue in Sabah. The RCI hearing will commence on Jan 14.

City police chief ACP Jauteh Dikun made an inspection on Friday of the Kota Kinabalu court house here, the venue of the hearings to investigate the decades-long allegations that the government had helped thousands of illegal immigrants gain citizenship in return for votes to the ruling coalition.

The RCI is expected to call 48 witnesses to give testimony before four commissioners appointed by the government to conduct the inquiry.

The four are former Universiti Malaysia Sabah vice-chancellor Kamaruzaman Ampon, ex-Sabah Attorney-General Herman Luping, former Sabah State Secretary KY Mustafa and Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation deputy chairman, Henry Chin Poy Wu.

Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry secretary-general Saripuddin Kasim has been appointed the secretary of the commission.

The inquiry is limited in scope by the terms of reference and is aimed strictly at investigating the number of immigrants in Sabah who have been issued identity cards or citizenship.

Their investigation would specifically focus on whether the issuance of the blue identity cards or citizenship to the immigrants was made based on the law.

The RCI will also investigate whether those who obtained the blue identity card or temporary identification receipt (blue) or citizenship illegally were registered in the electoral rolls.

Apart from that, the RCI would also investigate whether the relevant authorities had taken any action or made efforts to improve standard procedures, methods and regulations to avoid non-compliance with the law in regard to the matter.

Further investigation will also be conducted on matters pertaining to the standard operating procedures, methods and regulations on the issuance of the blue identity cards or citizenship to immigrants in Sabah by taking into account international standard and norms used in Malaysia.

The RCI was also set up to find the cause for the extraordinary increase in the population in Sabah, based on several categories, namely, Sabah people residing in the state, including those who had been issued with blue identity card and citizenship through birth certificates (late registration), foreign workers (including family members), illegal immigrants (including family members) and refugees, as well as the effects on the number of voters in the electoral roll.

In addition, the commission will also investigate the social implications on the society in Sabah arising from the issuance of the blue identity card or citizenship to immigrants and the number of immigrants in Sabah who have been given the blue identity card or citizenship by taking into account their status as stateless people.

On Thursday, Barisan Nasional component Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) stoked the flames of a controversy that the government has done its best to ignore till now.

The party’s secretary-general Radin Malleh, a former police officer-turned-politician, said that the party has gathered evidence that more than 70,000 illegal immigrants in the state were granted Malaysian citizenship by the federal authorities.

He said the majority of the ICs were genuine but alleged that they were obtained using information supported by forged declaration letters.

Radin said he had been called by the RCI to give a statement on Jan 3 but was unable to do so as the party was still verifying and compiling the list of dubious voters dating back to between 1994 and 1999 and the scores of police reports made.

“I promised the commission then that I will come if I detect these names, so today I have handed over the lists.

“The number we have detected is 73,985 illegals,” he reportedly said yesterday after handing over the evidence in the form of the name lists to the RCI.

For more than two decades, despite mounting evidence that something was not right in the population growth of the state and the voter numbers in various constituencies, the Umno-led ruling BN coalition brushed aside calls for a royal inquiry.

However, with its local component parties facing internal revolts and the threat of them pulling out of the ruling coalition looking ever more likely for them to survive, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak threw in the towel and announced the setting of the RCI last year, albeit one that is limited in its scope to investigate.

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