The illegal immigrant issues are now the centre of discussions and grapevines nationwide in view of the upcoming 13th general election since the issues have affected the results of the past general elections in Malaysia, particularly in Sabah.
Looking back in history, although Filipino immigrants in Sabah had ancestral links dating back to the period before the independence of Malaysia, the major issue on the Malaysian identity cards given to them dates back to the era of Mustapha Harun as the third chief minister of Sabah.
In the 1970's, Filipino refugees from Mindanao began arriving in Sabah as a result of the Moro insurgency taking place in the region.
These refugees had arrived in droves and more than 73,000 Filipinos were granted refugees status from 1976 to 1985.
Of the 73,000 Filipino refugees in Sabah, 33,019 had been issued with the refugee card (IMM13) according to Moktar Yassin, the secretary of Home Affairs and Research office in the Sabah Chief Minister's Department (JKM).
A total of about 325,000 illegal immigrants were detected and documented through census between 1987 and 1992 according to Abdul Ja'afar Alip, former head of settlement unit in the Chief Minister's Department.
Sabah's population leapt in 1991. A population census, carried out in 1991, showed that Sabah's demography had changed drastically with huge increase in its population according to Prof Rangit Singh.
The census reported the population of Sabah to be 1.7 million and out of this total there were 423,000 non-citizens. But just who these non-citizens are, were not disclosed in the census.
According to Prof Ranjit in the 1891 census, the population of then North Borneo was 67,000 people comprising 34,000 (50.7%) Dusuns, 11,000 (16.4%) Bajaus, 3,005 (4.5%) Bruneians, 3,700 (5.5%) Suluks, 7,000 (10.4%) Chinese, and 8,295 (12.4%) others, while there were no figures for the Muruts and Orang Sungais.
In the 1970 census, Sabah's population was 651,000 with 183,000 (28.1%) Dusuns, 30,000 (4.6%) Muruts, 77,000 (11.9%) Bajaus, 28,000 (4.3%) Melayu Brunei, 10,000 (1.5%) Suluks, 17,000 (2.6%) Orang Sungais, 138,000 (21.2%) Chinese, and 168,000 (25.8%) were others.
The 127,949 identity cards issued in the state from 1979 to 1996 were believed to be questionable according to Roslan Alias, the head of the National Registration Department (NRD) Sabah and Sarawak Special Unit assistant, and of the total, 91,656 were cancelled after their issuance was deemed "unsystematic".
During the January 2013 RCI hearing and as reported in the newspaper, Ramli Kamarudin, former director of the state NRD, said immigrants were recruited as phantom voters during the 1994 state election.
According to him, he was instructed to issue temporary identity card (IC) receipts to immigrants to allow them to vote in the election.
He said the instruction came directly from deputy director -eneral of NRD and the then-deputy home affairs minister Megat Junid.
He said between 200 and 400 of these temporary receipts were used by non-citizens to vote in each of the five or six constituencies involved.
He explained that the temporary documents had an expiry period of only three months and no application for ICs were filed prior to their issuance and therefore they could not be used for issuance of ICs.
He disclosed that the state Election Commission director, Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, had handed to NRD personnel a name list of 16,000 names and that the state NRD director, Ramli Kamarudin, had verbally instructed them to do the changes to those in possession of the JPN1/9 and JPN1/11 documents (JPN1/9 is the temporary receipt issued for application of an identity card while JPN1/11 is issued for a lost identity card).
Former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been accused of spearheading the so-called 'Project IC', in which citizenships were allegedly given to immigrants in exchange for their votes.
Mahathir admitted that citizenships were given to foreigners in Sabah, but stressed that it was "within the law".
Filipino refugees given ICs met all requirements said Mahathir. He admitted that during his tenure, he had given citizenship to Filipino refugees in Sabah who were able to meet all the requirements and that these identity cards were handed out legally.
But he did not know if the former deputy home affairs minister Magat Junid Megat Ayub had ordered them to be issued on purpose ahead of the state election.
The late former deputy home affairs minister Megat Junid Megat Ayub was accused of ordering the national registration department (NRD)'s Sabah branch to issue temporary documents to allow immigrants to vote in a 1994 state election.
On Jan 17, 2013, Prime Minister Najib Razak said that there is nothing wrong in handing out citizenships to foreigners as long as the law is followed, amidst revelations by former government officials that identity cards had been given to illegal immigrants to vote in the Sabah state election in 1994.
The Election Commission had instructed the NRD to change the names of 16,000 immigrants in Sabah and to give them identity cards.
Former Sabah NRD deputy director Mohd Nasir Sugip, who worked in Sabah NRD from 1992 to 1994, told the RCI that the then-Sabah EC director, Wan Ahmad Wan Yusof, had ordered Sabah NRD to change the names of Indonesian and Filipino immigrants to increase the number of Muslim voters in Sabah.
These illegal immigrants are becoming Malaysian as "new bumiputera" with native rights especially those who are Muslims .
The issues have now come to light and are being discussed in the open by Malaysians all over the country.
Citizenship and ownership of MyKad is the sovereign right of all Malaysians.
There are so many original native Malaysians especially in the rural remote part of Sabah and Sarawak who have neither birth certificates nor identity cards or MyKad until today.
They are poor rural folk and they cannot afford to travel the rough terrain to go to the towns or city to register themselves for their MyKad.
For a native Malaysian to get a MyKad, he has to get the card clinic, birth certificate, parents' marriage certificate and their MyKads, village head certification, etc before he can get near to his MyKad. What is the government doing about this?
Why is it so easy for illegal immigrants without any proper document to become a "new bumiputera"?
These new bumiputera have been given not only blue identity cards or MyKads but also the right to vote in elections and to own land including native title land.
We cannot blame the illegal immigrants or Penduduk Tanpa Izin (PTI) because they were given the right to have MyKad by the Malaysian BN government and also the right to vote (with incentives) in elections.
Anybody in their right mind would gladly accept citizenship and voting rights for free plus "goodies".
Malaysians are now smacked in the middle of this very big controversy dangerously close to the 13th general election.
Is the government really doing anything or is this just more "lip service" like the other past RCIs?
The saying goes "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely".
The Malaysian people will have to decide their own fate for the coming general elections. It is now time to decide the fate of our future and the future of our generations.
Do you want to flog your future and have more of the BN government management or do you want to change the managers?