Malaysiakini Letter

Sabah gov't should focus on its people, not foreigners

Daniel John Jambun & Kanul Gindol

LETTER | We are deeply disturbed by the continuing spate of public statements issued by various state government leaders expressing concern on the so-called plight of foreigners in Sabah.

For example, the proposal to accept holders of the IMM13 special pass for refugees as permanent residents, for starters, is a violation of the law. IMM13 holders should be persuaded to go home to the southern Philippines, since conditions there permit their return.

Refugees in Malaysia cannot use their status to apply for permanent residence and/or citizenship in the country.

The work of a government is to look after the citizens, not raise the possibility that foreigners would be added to the electoral rolls by the granting of citizenship.

Citizenship is about voting rights. Locals would not benefit in any way by foreigners getting citizenship. In fact, Sabahans would lose their sovereignty if foreigners in the state are given citizenship and added to the electoral rolls.

Citizenship is a matter governed by the Federal Constitution and the court. Politicians have no say in the matter.

The mobile court system in Sabah is a unique, dedicated forum, to address the plight of those who have been denied an identity.

The state gov't should respect the mobile court system and not look for convenient short cuts for self-serving political reasons.

The Federal Court, in a recent case, also ruled that the "stateless" status of anyone in the country can be confirmed by the foreign government concerned.

If the involvement of a foreign government does not arise, then the matter should be determined by the mobile court and/or the Federal Court.

The rule of law is the basis of the constitution. Lawmakers are sworn to uphold, respect and honour the constitution. The constitution is about its sanctity.

The state government claims, ostensibly on humanitarian grounds, that it is only concerned about the "stateless" people who have at least one local parent and who need to be enrolled in public schools.

The status of the local parent, if genuine, can only be confirmed by the mobile court and not by the state government.

Sabah Education director Maimunah Suhaibul confirmed in a statement in the Daily Express on Monday, July 9, 2018, that "non-citizens are allowed into the public system provided they fulfil the criteria laid down by the law.

'Making a mountain out of a molehill'

"The criteria include the students or their parents/legal guardian having some sort of documents - they can't be documentless at all."

The state government is making a mountain out of a molehill.

As Tambunan state assemblyperson Jeffrey Kitingan said in a recent statement, the "stateless" people cited by the state government make a very small number.

Sabahans are careful not to have children with foreigners who have no documents and/or no identity.

Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Yong Teck Lee and Sulaman state assemblyperson Hajiji Noor have expressed concerns that the state and federal governments were giving Malaysian personal documents to illegal immigrants.

Deputy Home Minister Mohd Azis Jamman claims the Manila government does not accept those born in Sabah of illegal immigrants originating from the Philippines, for example.

If so, the Philippine government has to confirm such status in writing on a case by case basis and with evidence presented to the Federal Court.

Illegal immigrants, unless they are overstayers, are not stateless if there's no record of them leaving their countries.

Their children born in Sabah cannot be given an identity card under the law, not necessarily a Malaysian one, if their parents don't confirm their status with their home countries.

Those who have been in the country for a few generations, if true, should go through the mobile court and/or the Federal court.

The onus is on those concerned to comply with the law and not for the state and federal governments to go out of the way to seek them out.

A government should not do that.

The public suspicion is that the state government, if not the Federal government as well, want to add "illegal immigrants" to the electoral rolls "by the back door" to create a "fixed deposit of voters".

DANIEL JOHN JAMBUN is president of Borneo's Plight in Malaysia Foundation, while KANUL GINDOL is chaorperspn of the Gindol Initiative for Civil Society Borneo.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini. 

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