It is unfair to label Suluk community in Sabah, as “illegal immigrants” or PATI as a whole, says Zaki Susanto

TAWAU: The issue of illegal immigrants in Sabah has been a long-standing problem with seemingly no solution in sight.

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Despite the establishment of the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to address the issue on August 11, 2012, the problem of illegal immigrants continues to be a thorn in the side of the local community, causing concern about the implications of their presence.

What is even more worrying is the negative sentiment towards those of Suluk descent in Sabah, as they are often perceived as illegal immigrants as a whole.

Mohd. Zaki Harry Susanto, a community activist and former Secretary of the Suluk Sabah Consultative Council (MPSS), stated that labeling the Suluk community as illegal immigrants as a whole is inaccurate and deviates from the true historical context.

According to historical experts from Brunei, the Suluk community has been present in Sabah since before the 1800s. They inhabited villages along the coast and lived alongside other indigenous groups in the state.

This means that the Suluk community is not a recent addition to the state. In fact, the local Suluk community is an integral part of the local people as stipulated
Interpretation (Definition of Native) Ordinance (Sabah Cap. 64).

“As native Sabahans of Suluk descent, we consider the actions of some parties in labeling the Suluk community as illegal immigrants as a whole to be an insult,

“We urge all parties to be more sensitive and fair in distinguishing between local Suluk who are also Malaysian citizens and non-Malaysian Suluk. We also have the same rights as other races to live harmoniously in this state,” he said.

Zaki also added, it is not right to label any race as illegal immigrants because the issue does not solely revolve around race, religion, or country of origin.

According to him, the issue of illegal immigrants actually clearly pertains to individuals who commit offenses under the Immigration Act 1959/63 (Act 155).

“Allow me to share, technically illegal immigrants are individuals who enter or stay illegally in a country, meaning they do not have a permit, did not enter through the proper channels, and do not abide by immigration laws. Furthermore, those who enter legally but overstay their visa or fail to renew their work permit and choose to continue staying in our country are also considered illegal immigrants.

“The question is, the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants in Sabah has recommended the establishment of a Permanent Secretary’s Office to address the issue of illegal immigrants in the state.

Moreover, the Chief Secretary to the Government at that time announced that the government agreed to establish a permanent committee chaired jointly by the Minister of Home Affairs and the Chief Minister of Sabah, which would report to the Cabinet Ministers chaired by the Prime Minister. So, has this committee been functioning and how effective has it been?”

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