KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s illegal immigrant problem has been festering due to political agenda and lack of enforcement since the 1980s, says former chief minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan.
He said there was a political agenda to topple his Parti Bersatu Sabah-led state government then, which was reflected in the 2014 Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into Sabah’s illegal immigrants.
This pointed to the existence of “Project IC” under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration, he said in a statement on Tuesday (July 5) in response to veteran DAP leader Lim Kit Siang who demanded Pairin explain what he had been doing from 2014-2018 as chairman of the RCI working committee.
He said he could not single-handedly solve all problems pertaining to the presence of the illegal immigrants in Sabah.
Pairin also claimed that the former Pakatan Harapan administration, which DAP was part of, “never really cared” to enforce the country’s immigration laws or resolve the problem.
He said the 2014 RCI report confirmed the illegal immigrant problem and revealed that there was a deliberate political agenda now known as “Project IC”.
“Dr Mahathir was prime minister for a lengthy 22 years before he was sworn-in again as prime minister (in 2018) with the support of DAP.
“DAP and Lim Kit Siang cannot deny the role Dr Mahathir played in the increase of the illegal immigrants in the country, particularly in Sabah where there was a clear agenda to topple the ruling PBS (government),” said Pairin, who was chief minister from 1985 to 1994.
The PBS government collapsed after a spate of defections after the 1994 state elections.
Following the RCI report, Pairin, whose PBS returned to Barisan in 2001, said he headed the technical committee with the main decision-making committee under the chairmanship of then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and then Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman, as deputy chairman.
“I conducted several meetings while receiving many proposals and suggestions.
“All proposals were considered to be meritorious and worth considering by the government via the Main Committee.
“I conveyed my views to the chairman for their consideration and final decision,” he said, without stating if any of the recommendations were adopted.