MEDIA STATEMENT (12 Dec 2014)
Following our preliminary response to the findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Immigrants in Sabah last week, the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) would now like to give a more cogent assessment of the report and the findings.
BERSIH 2.0 finds that the report falls short in many ways – some of them owing to the limitations of the terms of reference of the Commission, but others relating to the non-follow-through of the hard questions and damning conclusions made by the Commission itself in the course of its findings.
Firstly, BERSIH 2.0 wishes to address the general misconception on what the Commission had to say with regard to “Project IC”. It acknowledged some credibility in the damning evidence of five witnesses – staff and top officials from the Sabah National Registration Department – regarding the existence of the project, which it said “was more likely than not”, effectively meaning to say it was real.
Secondly, and perhaps most disappointingly, the Commission failed to ascertain the number of non-citizens with blue IC cards on the electoral roll. It cited various sources that provided the alleged numbers of the different categories of immigrants over several time periods that were not made clear, but could only conclude that the number was “uncertain”.
This has been dismissed by the Attorney-General as “negligible” in terms of the impact on the electoral roll. BERSIH 2.0 stresses that considering the years that this has been going on and the political agenda behind it, which the Commission also acknowledged at some point in the report, this can hardly be true.
For BERSIH 2.0, this is the most serious impact of “Project IC”: the damage to the integrity of the electoral roll and that non-citizens have been voting in the past elections. This fact was already known from the Likas petition, which succeeded in obtaining a court judgement nullifying the results of the 1999 state election for the constituency of Likas based on the existence of thousands of dubious names found on the electoral roll.
The Commission did not call the impact of “Project IC” treasonous, but said there was ample evidence that immigrants were issued blue ICs illegally by certain syndicates. And the purpose of these blue ICs is, beyond the profit motive, is to change the demographic and political landscape of Sabah. The political agenda is to strategise the fall of Parti Bersatu Sabah by increasing Muslim votes in areas where United Sabah National Organisation is weak.
Thirdly, the Commission merely offered a mechanism in the form of a permanent committee to resolve the issue of immigrants, legal or otherwise, who are now part of the Sabah population, but was silent on the redress for the great harm done to the people of Sabah and other Malaysians in general, which the Commission did acknowledge in strong terms. Given the amount of tax-payers’ monies and other resources invested into the RCI, including the personal cost on the part of the implicated government officials in terms of self-incriminating testimonies, and how the Sabahans have had to live with its consequences for so many years, this will continue to remain a gaping wound on the psyche of the people.
Fourthly, the Commission found the means for “Project IC” to be a “weakly institutionalised citizenship” but did not go far enough to find the root. There have been too many national scandals in which the perpetrators are glossed over or remain unnamed. The incomplete finding has allowed certain federal government representatives to attempt to wash its hands off any responsibility in this matter.
Yet BERSIH 2.0 notes that the federal government has been extremely lax in responding to the warning bells raised as far back as 1990, and persistent calls for an RCI from Sabah MPs since 2006. Practically all chiefs minister in power then have asked for action from the federal government but were ignored and there was no follow-up on the research already done.
BERSIH 2.0 is currently on a campaign to educate Malaysians on how unfair delineation can diminish their votes and cheat them of their choice of government. Looking at the findings of this Commission, we now know that the people of Sabah had similarly been cheated of their choice of government by ethnicity-based gerrymandering, just as how the People’s Tribunal on Malaysia’s 13th General Election found that the wrong ruling coalition may have been installed in power at the federal level.
The RCI report may be frustrating in terms of its recommendations, but the information it has unearthed is enough for the state prosecutors to act on. The Commission actually rued the fact that none of the witnesses, whom it found to be quite credible, was subjected to cross-examination as how it would be in a trial. BERSIH 2.0 demands that the matter be taken up further in the court of law so that the masterminds of “Project IC” can be ferreted out and brought to justice. The people of Sabah deserve no less.
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0, which comprises –
Chairperson: Maria Chin Abdullah; Deputy Chairperson: Sarajun Hoda Abdul Hassan; Treasurer: Masjaliza Hamzah; national representatives: Prof Madya Dr Abdul Halim bin Yusoff, Farhana binti Abdul Halim, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri and New Sin Yew; vice-chairpersons: Jannie Lasimbang (Sabah), Ahmad b. Awang Ali (Sarawak), Abd Halim b. Wan Ismail (East Peninsula), Thomas Fann (South Peninsula), Simon Lee Ying Wai (Central Peninsula) and Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon (North Peninsula).