KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 – Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today denied any involvement in the granting of citizenships to illegal immigrants in Sabah during his tenure in government, adding that he is prepared to testify before the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) if needed.
Anwar, who served as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s deputy from 1993 to 1998, told a press conference here that he was not worried that the ongoing RCI investigation may implicate him in the scandal in any way, insisting that he had never once participated in the controversial exercise.
“The RCI, if it is indepenedent, professional, transparent, I have no worries at all. Check with all ex-secretary-generals, national security council chiefs.
“I have nothing to do with, neither [have I] participated in anything with the relevant authorities on the issue that is being discussed by the RCI,” he said.
Last week, PKR deputy president Azmin Ali said the party had received information of an alleged scheme to implicate Anwar in the ongoing royal panel probe on Sabah’s illegal immigrants issue.
Dr Mahathir, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, has been repeatedly accused of spearheading the so-called “Projek IC”, an initiative in which citizenships were allegedly given to immigrants in exchange for their votes.
Anwar maintained that despite his involvement in government at the time, he was not privy to the specifics of “Projek IC”.
“You can check any file, they can adduce any report. So Umno can try and use it... but they will have to answer now whether Umno was directly involved... whether Dr M [was involved],” he said.
The Permatang Pauh MP then alleged that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was “fully aware” of the matter, as the granting of citizenships had continued even after the latter was appointed to his post in April 2009.
“So I don’t believe it is entirely an issue that implicates Dr M... but clearly Najib has also to answer.
“Because it is ongoing until the last few years... until Najib was made PM. It did not end with the retirement of Dr M,” Anwar said.
But most notably involved, the politician said, was the late Tan Sri Megat Junid Megat Ayub, who was at the time the deputy home affairs minister, and Dr Mahathir’s former political secretary Tan Sri Aziz Shamsuddin.
He pointed out that both were repeatedly named during the RCI’s hearings last week.
Last week, two former National Registration Department (NRD) officials testified to the RCI that the much talked-about “Projek IC” had existed, and was used to increase the state’s Muslim population.
It was revealed that around 100,000 blue identity cards were issued to immigrants in Sabah in 1993 and these foreigners were allowed also given NRD receipts, which were temporary documents that would allow them to vote during the 1994 state election.
But former Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh, who administered the state from 1976 to 1985, had denied the day before of the existence of “Projek IC”.
Sabah has 926,638 voters, according to a June report in English-language daily The Star.
The issue of illegal immigrants in an emotive one among Sabah natives like the Kadazandusun and Murut (KDM) communities, many of whom feel that the state’s sovereignty has been stolen through the continued influx of foreigners from countries like the Philippines and Indonesia.
It is no secret that Sabahans are angry and want these foreigners shipped back to their home countries in one way or another. They also often blame the group for robbing them of job opportunities and for the rise in the state’s social, economic and security problems.
Recent statistics from a 2010 census of Sabah’s population showed an extraordinary 390-per cent increase from 636, 431 citizens in 1970 to 3,120,040 citizens in 2010 ― more than double the national population growth of just 164 per cent.
Of the 3.12 million Sabahans today, reports have estimated that 27 per cent are foreigners.