Sabah's lingering misery over 'Project IC'
COMMENT Dr Mahathir Mohamad has long been implicated in the Malaysian identity card (IC) being issued to foreigners in Sabah.
The first indication of this was seen when a foreigner in possession of a dubious IC was asked by a magistrate in Kota Kinabalu in September 1992 how he had obtained the document.
His answer was: “From a project called Project President Mahathir”.
The foreigner was jailed for two years but upon his release, was not repatriated.
Instead, he managed to get registered on the Sabah electoral roll, where his name remains up to now.
Next, in 1998, there was a public hearing to decide if would-be new voters in the Likas constituency should be accepted if there were objections to their registration.
The Election Commission’s registering officer asked how they had obtained their ICs - the answer was “from Project Mahathir”. The registering officer testified to this during the hearing of the 1999 Likas election petition.
Sworn testimony at the same proceedings by one Hassnar Ibrahim revealed the fact that deputy home minister Megat Junid Megat Ayub had chaired meetings, at which it was mentioned that Mahathir had approved the ‘Project’.
This had happened in the 1980s. The testimony was not challenged.
When Umno set foot in Sabah in 1991, it set up a task force. Its job was to look for foreigners and help them to get their IC dubiously, and register them as Sabah Umno members as well as in the state electoral roll - the purpose was to deny PBS victory in the next state election.
Do not forget MD Mutalib has written many books on dubious ICs being in the hands of hundreds of thousands of foreigners. He also wrote a book, ‘IC Projek Agenda Tersembunyi Mahathir?’ published in late 2006. There was no response to this from Mahathir.
In 2006, I had submitted before the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on integrity, some detailed background leading to the extraordinary increase in Sabah’s population (see chart) , implicating Mahathir in the deliberate issuance of dubious ICs to foreigners.
Mahathir was urged to rebut his role in this treacherous act by then Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang who was the PSC deputy chairperson.
To date, Mahathir has not done so - instead he now publicly defends the extraordinary increase in Sabah’s population and citizenship for migrants.
‘Expel them to peninsula’
Mahathir has said these migrants were eligible to become citizens.
If so, the first question is: Why was the Sijil Akuan (letter of affirmation) falsified to state the birth of place as being in Sabah, leading to the code ‘12' being assigned for the MyKad?
Or, if the person is a naturalised citizen, why doesn’t their MyKad number bear the code ‘71', to show they were born outside Malaysia?
There are more than 700,000 ‘Project IC’ citizens in Sabah now, of whom about 200,000 are on the state’s current electoral roll of about 950,000 names.
If they had been properly granted citizenship, when and where did they take their oath of allegiance?
Even if the federal government insists that these migrants in Sabah who were granted citizenship are Malaysians now, then the Sabah government still has certain immigration powers backdated to the formation of Malaysia.
It can invoke the Inter-Governmental Committee Report, Chapter III, paragraph 16, sub-paragraphs (f) (ii) and (iii) to ‘expel these new citizens to the peninsula.
After all, this was what it did to activist Harris Ibrahim few months ago, when he was refused entry to Sabah allegedly on security grounds.
DR CHONG ENG LEONG heads Sabah PKR’s security, immigration and electoral reform bureau.