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Thursday September 12, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday September 12, 2013 MYT 5:28:53 PM
by ruben sario
The 209th witness: Dr Mahathir at the High Court in Kota Kinabalu. — Bernama
KOTA KINABALU: Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad took the stand at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Sabah’s illegal immigrants to deny that he had ever given the order to anyone or set up any task force for foreigners to be issued with Malaysian identity cards.
Wearing a grey suit over a purple shirt and red tie, Dr Mahathir told the commission that the issuance of ICs to unqualified foreigners in Sabah could have been due to the “wrongdoing of certain government officers”.
“But this has never been the Federal Government’s policy,” he said during his 90-minute testimony at the Kota Kinabalu court complex where a large crowd had turned up to greet him and his wife Toh Puan Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali.
Pointing out that among those arrested for the issuance of such ICs were two former National Security Council officers who had been posted as state National Registration Department directors, Dr Mahathir said: “They must have done something wrong. I don’t know. It was obviously some IC issue. We don’t normally detain people without reason.”
Informed by conducting officer Manoj Kurup that the scheme, Projek IC, was also known as Projek Mahathir, the 209th witness replied: “Thank you very much,” prompting laughter from the audience.
On the testimony by some witnesses that they had received their ICs under Projek Mahathir, he said: “My name has been used everywhere. I’m not bothered by it.”
Shown a book in which activist Mutalib MD had accused him of giving such an order, Dr Mahathir, who was prime minister from 1981 until 2003, said: “My name has been used in books and they sell well.”
He also said the awarding of citizenship to qualified migrants and refugees was a “normal process”, as long as they had lived in the country for 10 to 12 years.
Dr Mahathir said that when Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) won the state election in 1985 and again in 1986, it was considered to be in the Opposition since it was not part of the Barisan Nasional ruling coalition then.
“This was not something new for us as we have had Opposition parties ruling several states, including Kelantan and then, at one time, Penang. We recognised them as the Opposition,” he said, adding that the Barisan had to “defeat the Opposition at all costs”.
On the perception among many Sabahans that the issuance of ICs was due to Umno’s entry into the state, Dr Mahathir said it had to come in because midway in the 1990 general election, PBS pulled out of the coalition.
The issuance of citizenship and ICs to refugees and other foreigners in Sabah, he said, was carried out even before PBS came into power but this was done in accordance with the Federal Constitution.
Asked by Manoj for suggestions to tackle the 113,000 problematic ICs in Sabah and the 49,000 “dubious voters”, Dr Mahathir said any solution must be in accordance with the Constitution and the law, agreeing that the situation of illegals had reached a serious level.
Tags / Keywords:
Government, RCI, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
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