KOTA KINABALU: Expectations are high that the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) report on migrant problems in Sabah, to be made public today, will be a major step towards resolving the decades-old issue.
The problem has grown from being a socio-economic issue and security threat to displacing the very demographics of multi-ethnic Sabah.
The first influx of refugees fleeing a civil war in southern Philippines arrived in the late 1960s followed by economic migrants from the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan and India in the early 1980s.
The long-awaited inquiry report is expected to give recommendations on steps to be taken by the federal and state governments to curb the illegal immigrant problem.
It is also likely to outline the relevant background information on the alleged identity card scam and how the immigrants had become a burden to Sabah, a state where the population increased by nearly 400% over the past four decades.
Many Sabahans and state leaders said they were looking forward to seeing action taken against those involved in what has been dubbed “the mother of all problems” in the state.
Sabah Barisan Nasional has set up a special committee headed by Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan to look into the findings and coordinate measures suggested by the RCI report.
United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) acting president Datuk Wilfred Tangau said the party wanted action to be taken immediately after the RCI findings are announced.
“We don’t want to keep talking about the issue with no action,” he said, adding that the party would wait for the report before commenting further.
Sabah Umno deputy chief Datuk Salleh Tun Said hoped the RCI’s recommendations would include short-term and long-term measures to tackle the problem.
The seriousness of the issue led to Upko and the opposition Sabah Progressive Party asking for fresh issuance of identity cards in the state to weed out the “backdoor citizenships” granted to foreigners.
Upko information chief Albert Bingkasan said Barisan parties had agreed to work with the panel led by Pairin to resolve the problem.
Liberal Democratic Party president Datuk Teo Chee Kang said that Sabah leaders must be courageous in implementing the measures recommended.
“Whatever the inconvenient truths that are revealed in the report, the current administration must take drastic measures to tackle the problem once and for all,” he said.
Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah secretary-general Datuk Johnson Tee said: “Implementation and enforcement are the most important aspects. No point just talking about it”.
The Movement for Change in Sabah (APS) opposition party’s president Datuk Wilfred Bumburing said there should be a concrete plan to solve the problem and a time frame set for it.
“A special Sabah state assembly session should be called to discuss this as it is a very important issue for the people of the state,” he said, adding that his party was saddened that it was not tabled in Parliament.
SAPP president Datuk Yong Teck Lee said the announcement had been long delayed and raised doubts on whether the findings would be useful to address the solutions.
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