Sabah’s large number of foreigners, including illegal immigrants, isn’t merely an issue for the state. National security is at stake too.
EVERY third person in Sabah is a foreigner. The population of my state is about 3.9 million. Malaysians make up 2,741,700 of the state’s population while foreigners 1,158,300, according to a census by the Department of Statistics.
These numbers are in a paper entitled Population Statistics: Foreign Residents in Sabah by the Sabah Immigration Department director Musa Sulaiman. It was read by his assistant director at a Sept 27 seminar in Kota Kinabalu.
These foreigners, according to the paper, are all over Sabah. The districts of Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau (where the state’s three big towns are located) have the most. In Kinabatangan, which is in the east coast of Sabah, there are more foreigners than Sabahans.
The status of the foreigners, according to Musa, can be divided into three:
• Those with valid status – holding permanent resident status, visitors, expatriates, foreign workers and IMM13 holders.
(Filipino refugees fleeing the Moro wars in the southern Philippines in the 1970s were granted IMM13 visa, which is renewable every year and allows them to stay and work in Sabah.)
• Those with illegal status – without pass and have no documents.
• Those with status under the management of the Sabah Foreigners Management Committee (JKPWAS) – temporary residents status, refugee children without IMM13, document holders other than immigration documents, children born from a marriage with illegal immigrants and pa’lauh (sea gypsies).
About 70% of foreigners in Sabah are illegal immigrants, according to Musa, based on statistics provided by federal authorities and his department. Of these illegal immigrants, about a third are under the management of JKPWAS, which is supervised by the Home Ministry and the Sabah government.
“Those put under the committee hold various documents they thought were valid. These include census cards, birth certificates, temporary residency cards and documents issued by the Chief Minister’s Department,” he said as reported by Free Malaysia Today.
Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal is cautious about the reported statistic that one-third of the state’s population are foreigners. He said his government would liaise with the state Immigration Department to verify this.
That every third person in Sabah is a foreigner is not a surprise. We can see them living among us. But it is still shocking to be confronted with such statistics.
It highlights the fact that Ori Sabahans (original) are being swamped by Photocopy Sabahans (fake).
One of the main worries is that the Photocopy Sabahans have changed the political dynamics of the state. Many Ori Sabahans are worried that the Photocopy Sabahans are voters.
Thought many Sabahans found its findings to be watered down, the 368-page report by the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on immigrants in Sabah, which was made public in 2014, concluded that syndicates and individuals aided by corrupt officials spun a web to create a so-called “Project IC” in Sabah with a purported corrosive political agenda for monetary gains.
The other worry is that sooner or later, the foreigners – mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia – will outnumber Ori Sabahans. It seems Ori Sabahans can only produce three to five kids per family, whereas the Photocopy Sabahans can have nine to 11.
Crime is also a worry. We tend to blame it on the foreigners. Sometimes, I feel it is not fair. As orang kita (our people) also know how to merompak and mencuri (to rob and steal).
But regarding cross-border kidnappings, which the east coast of Sabah is famous for, the blame goes to foreigners who are either Ori Sabahans or Photocopy Sabahans.
Take the notorious Muktadir brothers. Before most of them were killed, they were responsible for many of the kidnappings in 2013 to 2016.
They grew up in a squatter water village called Kampung Bangau Bangau in Semporna. Intelligence sources told me that the brothers lived in two worlds – Semporna and Jolo – and they possessed Malaysian and Philippines identity cards.
They were the musuh dalam selimut (enemies from within). They used their knowledge of their “hometown” Semporna to organise their kidnappings.
Ori Sabahans love to gripe about the illegal immigrants. But some of them are complicit in this matter.
They rent their land or houses to the illegals.
They hire them in their homes, shops or plantations as cheap labour.
They arrange for the illegals to procure legal/illegal documents when their daughters are made pregnant by foreigners.
How does an immigrant enter Sabah so easily?
In Pulau Sebatik, an island shared by Malaysia and Indonesia, an Indonesian can enter the living room of a kampung house, walk into the bedroom and end up in Malaysia. From the Malaysian side of Pulau Sebatik, they can take a boat ride to Tawau town, which is visible from the shores of the island.
The water border between the east coast of Sabah and the southern Philippines is porous. Plus, enforcement is lax.
An Abu Sayyaf militant from Basilan island in the southern Philippines can smuggle himself to the east coast of Sabah.
I’ve noticed that there’s a large population of Filipinos from Basilan in Kuala Lumpur. On August 30 last year, eight of them were arrested for allegedly planning attacks on the celebration at Dataran Merdeka and the SEA Games closing ceremony.
Sabah’s illegal immigrant problem is now a Kuala Lumpur problem. Some are Photocopy Malaysians.