By Political Analyst Mohd Ustar Abdul Ghani
KOTA KINABALU: The absence of distinct legislation overseeing refugees evolves disparaging consequences churning Sabah haven for illegal immigrants.
The economic impact of illegal immigration on taxpayers is catastrophic and obviously illegal immigration is illegal, duh.
Primary legislation governing immigrants is the Immigration Act 1959/63. S.6 of the Act dispenses foundation for legal entry and violation of any means imposes severe retributions. Not being a signatory to the 1951 Convention Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol, Malaysia is facing the harsh realities of dealing with illegal immigrants especially the fillipino immigrants in Sabah. S.6 of the Act, read literally, would expound any transgression of the law. It would have been easier to comprehend as suggested by Dr. Jeffery Kitingan in response to the proposed introduction of the Foreigner Card by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The dilemma faced by S. 6 of the Act is the caveat imposed for refugees and asylum seekers which made up a bulk of the illegal immigrants in Sabah. This is compounded further with the provision of S. 55 of the Act, allowing the unfettered discretion of the Home Minister to dispense with S. 6 when dealing with refugees and asylum seekers.
For more than five decades, the unfettered discretion have allowed more than 1 million illegal immigrants from southern Philippines to call Sabah home either as first generation immigrant, economic migrant, migrant labor, refugees or asylum seekers. What started as HF7 permit during the reign of the late Tun Mustapha has now transformed into IMM13, Kad Burung Burung, insulating further the immigrant’s rights to be in Sabah, making S. 6 of the Immigration Act 1959/63 redundant. The contemplated PSS, many would have thought would have sealed Sabah’s fate.
Even the unprecedented RCI on illegal immigrants lacks the ingenuity to solve this squalorous issue depicting the myopic attitude of the government. Having to dysect and comprehend a 300 pages report with more than 200 narratives from witnesses that revealed the untold invite our observations to the pitfalls, iniquities and wickedness.
This so called “perfect storm” created the highway of convenience for many involved in this grotesque scheme which in the following years have changed our political culture, our economic vista and our social fabric. The out-and-out losers being Sabahans ourselves without making reference to any particular race or religion.
To honestly believe that this is politically motivated would run smack in the face of absurdity. There are many in the long list of witnesses who have benefitted but surely the biggest winner would be the shrewd politicians.
The recent call by the Home Minister to introduce a Foreign Card for the illegal immigrants is a worrying contemplation. If the various mechanisms in dealing with this cause do not augur well, how will this new contemplation be able to subdue this mythical problem. The government should now envisage a more promising end to this problem. The agreement between MILF and the Philippines government should be a starting point to effectively deploy S.6 or otherwise our government should venture the initiative to discuss with its Philippines counterpart to resolve this issue.
Understandably, our worries is more than just the exodus of illegal immigrants into Sabah. This year it is expected that the illegal immigrants would mushroomed to probably 2 million, a fretting pointer that the worrying “reverse takeover” is imminently forthcoming and inevitable. This decades long problem would not see light at the end of the tunnel unless there is sincerity and strong political will.
To be fair to Sabahans who have endured this uneasiness, it is suggested that the Malaysian government take equal responsibility for the mess created. It should be ready to accept these immigrants in Semenanjung if it so wishes to accord S. 55 and introduce the Foreign Card to these immigrants.
Sabah has endured so much conflicts due to their presence. Their rogue personality have changed Sabah’s cultural, economic and political facets tremendously. These changes have created fear amongst Sabahans not the least assimilation into the society would create unknowing consequences but the blending of alien cultures would definitely erase our very own culture. Crime rates have seen a steep rise in recent times and social problems are becoming a permanent features of our society.
Many would think that on humanitarian ground it is necessary to embrace humanity. If necessity becomes the only reason why we allow these immigrants to stay then we should consider that “necessity would open a door which no man could shut”.