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'Pakistani and Indian citizens became instant Malaysians'

The royal commission of inquiry (RCI) on immigrants in Sabah today heard how two men who arrived in Malaysia as Pakistani and Indian nationals were granted citizenship in a matter of years.

Taking the stand today was Mohamed Hussein, a Pashtun Pakistani, who in 1987 flew to Kuala Lumpur from Karachi using a Pakistani passport.

He subsequently flew to Kota Kinabalu before settling down in Tawau.

“In 1988, a Pakistani man accompanied by a few Malaysian men approached me and offered me Malaysian documentation,” Mohamed told the inquiry in the Kota Kinabalu High Court complex.

The condition, he said, was that he must intent to stay in Malaysia and must become a voter, though he was not told for which party to vote.

“They brought me to the National Registration Department, filled in the forms for me - as I could not read and write - then took my thumbprint and signature,” Mohamed said.

He then surrendered his Pakistani passport and received a temporary identification receipt.

He received his blue identity card in 1989, some two years after arriving in Malaysia, and became a voter in Papar.

Mohamed, who replied to questions in basic Malay, said he later applied for a Malaysian passport and had returned to Pakistan four to five times using the document.

He married an Indonesian woman in 2002, who still does not have papers, but both his children have Malaysian birth certificates and blue identity cards.

‘Never questioned’

Despite his obvious appearance of not being a local Sabahan, Mohamed said he had never been questioned before when applying for a Malaysian passport for upgrading  his blue identity card to newer versions.

In a similar case, Aziz Kassim, who was from Tamil Nadu, India, arrived by plane to Kuala Lumpur with an Indian passport in 1980.

Testifying before the panel, Aziz said he subsequently flew to Labuan and then took a ferry to Kota Kinabalu where he worked at a restaurant.

“In 1987, some people who claimed to be government officers came and told me they could help me get an identity card.

“They filled in a form for me, and took my photograph, thumbprint and signature at the restaurant where I worked,” he said.

Four months later, Aziz said he received his blue identity card, along with a friend with whom he had travelled from India.

In 1995, he then applied for and received a Malaysian passport using his blue identity card, to return to India where he got married.

He then brought his wife back to Kota Kinabalu where he had her apply for permanent residence. All three of his children are Malaysian citizens.

‘I set up five restaurants’

In a story befitting the ‘Malaysian dream’,  Aziz then applied for a business licence which was approved by the Kota Kinabalu City Hall, and went on to set up five restaurants in the city.

“But later business went bad and I suffered losses, so I closed them down and am only working as a cook now,” he said.

Asked if he had voted before, Aziz said he registered as a voter in 1991 and had voted four times in the Likas constituency.

In 1999, the state election for the constituency of Likas was declared null and void due to the discovery of dubious names in the electoral roll there.

Subsequently, former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad sought to amend the election laws, making it impossible for the electoral roll to be challenged by the courts.

A total of 29 witnesses had testified during the five-day session which concluded today.

The RCI will reconvene on Jan 29 with its second session until Feb 1, with a third session scheduled for Feb 22 to Feb 27.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak had yesterday declined to comment on revelations at the RCI about allegations of covert operations to make illegal immigrants into citizens in a bid to topple the then PBS-led Sabah government.

He had said that it was premature to weigh on the inquiry as there would be 167 more witnesses to be called. The official number of witnesses that will be called, which the RCI had informed the media, was 48.