‘Be mindful, reflect upon the consequences of our generosity’ – William

KOTA KINABALU: To open doors to asylum seekers and refugees from the Middle East without proper legal and administrative frameworks for resettlement in place would further exacerbate an already complex and consequential issue in Sabah, said Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) Supreme Council Member Datuk William Majimbon.


He said war resulted in the displacement of many innocent lives and a surge of refugees seeking a safe haven around the world.

However, he said it worth taking note that Malaysia is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol despite Malaysia hosting some 181,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, of whom 85 per cent are from Myanmar, including some 103,000 Rohingyas and the remaining are from 50 other countries, including Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and Somalia.

This suggests that regardless of the absence in the formal adoption of the said convention, Malaysia nevertheless has a beating heart, he said, adding such beating heart flows equally through the veins of each Sabahan which is reflected in not just the harmonious race relations they uphold but also their hospitality and generosity to each other and to others.

“Ideally, it is the DNA of Sabahans to accept, to clothe and to nurture the sick and marginalised including displaced asylum seekers and refugees. There ought to be no discrimination in our character towards any person by virtue of their descent, religion or nationality including the Palestinians who are now desperate and legally entitled to seek safety from harm.

“However, as empathetic as Sabahans are, it is also necessary for Sabahans, especially younger generations, to be mindful and reflect upon the consequences of our generosity in permitting the influx of asylum seekers escaping the conflict in Southern Philippines in the 1970s.

“Despite initial resettlement plans coordinated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Sabah Government at that time subsequently issued residency documents namely the IMM13, Census Certificate and Kad Burung-Burung. The holders of these documents were allowed to apply for permanent residency upon completing a prerequisite stay. In other words, the refugees obtained permanent residency by naturalisation. A flow of misadministration and shambolic policies followed suit and Sabah has never been the same.

“These issues above are too complex to be canvassed in the four corners of this letter but the consequences of the misadministration of the Sabah Government at that time and exploitative undertakings by irresponsible politicians have completely changed the fabric of Sabah, demographically, economically and politically.

“It is my deepest fear that without proper legal and administrative frameworks for resettlement in place, to open our doors to asylum seekers and refugees from the Middle East would further exacerbate an already complex and consequential issue in Sabah pertaining to unlawful immigration and statelessness,” he said in a statement today.

William said: “We must ask ourselves, do we have the capacity for compounding issues and complications? More pertinently, we must ask ourselves – do we even have the solutions?

“As such, it is appropriate for the Sabah Government today to be slow in action. Solidarity and support can be reflected in numerous expressions including generous aids.”

William personally think that whether one is pro-Palestine or pro-Israel, it is vital to be mindful of the sentiments, political and emotional climate of the surrounding community.

“We are after all a plural society of diverse backgrounds in religion, ethnicity and culture.

“Where there is disagreement, finding a middle ground is not just important but necessary. If one cannot support, one must refrain from discouraging support. Where one disagrees, one must be agreeable to disagree.

“We as Malaysians particularly as Sabahans ought to never take our peace, our stability and most importantly, our sovereignty for granted…young or old, we must never lose sight that we are truly the fortunate ones.”

Echoing the wise words of Bertrand Russell that war does not determine who is right only who is left, William said it is his deepest regret to witness the ongoing war in the Middle East between Palestine and Israel, especially the horrendous loss of thousands of innocent lives including the elderly, the sick and more tragically, defenseless children.

“As I reflect on the many lives cut short by this atrocity, I reflect too upon my own friends and family, specifically my children. The thought of losing a loved one is always unbearable. It is indeed unfortunate that this war has not just separated families geographically but for the unfortunate ones, eternally,” he said.

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