KOTA KINABALU: Local leaders such as village headmen who helped illegal immigrants in any way should be sacked at once, said Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili.
He said these leaders should also face legal charges if they were found to be harbouring illegal immigrants in their villages.
“We don’t want our state to be a haven for illegal immigrants or terrorists,” said Dr Ongkili, who is Kota Marudu MP, referring to news about Sulu terrorists hiding in Kunak before they were caught by authorities, he said.
Dr Ongkili said that three village chiefs were sacked after they were found to have endorsed documents for illegal immigrants.
“They abused their power and the people’s trust in them,” he told reporters after launching a youth community programme organised by the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) in Kota Marudu.
Although he believed such a problem was not widespread, he said there must be constant monitoring by others, such as community leaders and district officers.
Meanwhile, an ongoing crackdown against illegal immigrants has extended into tracts of mangrove forests in Sandakan district.
An integrated operation mounted by the Sabah Forestry Department had led to the arrest of 13 illegal immigrants and the demolition of 88 structures built illegally in mangrove reserves.
Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said the operation was to rid the mangrove reserves of illegal immigrants and to ensure that the forests do not become a hiding place for them.
Prior to the operation, notices were given to 314 houses with 1,468 inhabitants.
Two days before the start of the operation last month, 1,008 inhabitants staying in 212 houses had stayed put.
The department allowed appeals by local residents in 10 of the houses and gave them six months to leave.