KOTA KINABALU: Ruling state coalition government partner Upko proposes that Sabah puts a halt to the planned Sabah Temporary Pass (PSS) for Filipino refugees despite its "noble intention" to resolve Sabah's five-decade-old problem.
Upko president Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau said instead, the government must find solutions to deport the refugees back to their home country and putting in place a strict mechanism to stop illegal immigrants from slipping back into the state.
"The current government's intention of introducing the PSS is noble, but the sentiments of the majority of the people are against it.
"This is understandable considering what Sabah has experienced and gone through in the last five decades or so," Madius said.
He said the problem faced in Sabah was due to the consequences of the actions and decisions made by leaders, especially unscrupulous characters of the past.
"Now, we are seeing and hearing rising sentiments in opposing the PSS," he said amid questions over the PSS during the campaign for the Jan 18 Kimanis by-election.
"Some quarters also feel the government is not dealing with the real issue at hand. You may have the best of proposals but if you don't have the trust and support of the people, it will still end up as a failure," he said.
As leaders in the current government, he said, it was his responsibility to ensure the people not only support but trust them.
"One of the ways that we in Upko believe needs to be done is to show the government's seriousness in resolving the issue of sending back the refugees to their country of origin," he said.
He said if the their country of origin refuses to accept them, then other possibilities such as sending the refugees to a third country should be considered and looked into.
He said enforcement must be stricter and the question of the legality of documents such as Kad Burung-Burung and Census Certificate must be finally addressed.
"Even though it has always been the position of the enforcement agencies over the years not to arrest holders of such documents, that must now be reconsidered," he said, adding that the government should find a comprehensive solution to the illegal immigrant presence in Sabah.
The Home Ministry and the state government planned to introduce the high-security biometric PSS card to register some 135,000 Filipino refugees and their families currently registered under three documents, which are the IMM13, which is a legal immigration pass, and the Burung-Burung and Census cards.
The issues were widely used by the opposition Barisan Nasional and cited as one one of the reasons Parti Warisan candidate Datuk Karim Bujang lost in the by-election.
Madius, who is Deputy Chief Minister, also wants the government to reissue Malaysian identity cards in Sabah in a bid to weed out those who could have citizenship through dubious means in the past.
"The Sabah illegal immigrant issue is a serious problem and the state continues to face the existence of illegal immigrants possessing identification cards.
"Some of them have already been registered in the system and have even voted in several general elections as disclosed in the 2013 Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI)," he said.