Malaysian execs reject RP’s residency suggestion

Published by rudy Date posted on July 5, 2008

Asia News Network
Inquirer.net

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia — A Philippines government suggestion that its citizens who have been in Sabah for a long time be accorded Malaysian permanent resident status has drawn opposition from state leaders.

“Malaysia has its ways of dealing with illegal immigrants and as far as I know, this is not one of them,” said Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Nasir Tun Sakaran.

He said it was inconceivable for Malaysia to simply accept Filipino nationals on the basis that they had been staying in Sabah for a long time.

Former chief minister Yong Teck Lee said Philippine Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr.’s suggestion was “irresponsible” as no country would simply accept the citizens of another nation.

“It is an indication that the government concerned is not looking after the welfare of their citizens,” said Yong, the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president, adding Malaysia must take a more “aggressive” stance when dealing with Manila over migration issue.

Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister V. K. Liew, who is also the Liberal Democratic Party president, said Conejos’ remarks were only a suggestion that Malaysia had every right to ignore.

Conejos on Wednesday said that Malaysia should consider granting permanent residence status to Filipino migrants who had been staying in Sabah for a long time.

This after Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said immigrants who have lived unlawfully in Sabah since the 1970s would not be spared.

Conejos said some Filipino nationals had been in Sabah for such a long period that they no longer had any relatives in the Philippines nor spoke any Filipino dialects.

The deportation, he said, holds for those who constantly travel to and from Sabah without travel documents.

“We have among our people who still cannot understand why they cannot travel there freely,” he said.

The Philippines has a long-standing claim over Sabah.

Meanwhile, Sabah Law Association president John Sikayun said it was within the federal government’s jurisdiction to set up a special task force to deal with the state’s illegal immigrant problem.

He said the establishment of such a task force was consistent with Article 80 of the Federal Constitution since immigration problems could lead to a national security threat.

Kimanis MP Anifah Aman had recently stated that such a task force should not be under federal jurisdiction but the Chief Minister with the Deputy Prime Minister as its patron. Anifah said this was because Article 161E(4) of the Constitution stipulated that immigration matters in Sabah and Sarawak was a state matter.

Meanwhile, an Indonesian envoy here said that some employers in Sabah have sacked their undocumented foreign workers ahead of a crackdown against illegal immigrants in the state.

Indonesian acting Consul General Rudhito Widagdo said a plantation owner in Beluran had recently chased out 72 undocumented Indonesian workers for fear of being caught harboring them.

The issue of illegal migrants has long been a bitter grievance for Sabah politicians, who accuse the federal government of failing to oust job-seeking foreigners after their permits expire.

Top government leaders have stepped up efforts to resolve the problem amid speculation that many Sabah lawmakers planned to defect to the opposition because of dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s administration.

Although Sabah has vast natural resources, such as timber, it is one of Malaysia’s poorest states. Some residents blame this on large numbers of migrants whose presence means fewer available jobs.

Ruben Sario, The Star-ANN, with reports from Veronica Uy, INQUIRER.net and The Associated Press

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