KOTA KINABALU, Jan 18 — Two immigrants — one a Pakistani and the other an Indian — told the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants here today that they received blue identity cards in less than 10 years after arriving in Sabah in the 1980s.
Mohamed Hussein, who was born in Pakistan, and Aziz Kasim, who was born in Tamil Nadu, India, also said that they had changed their place of birth in their Malaysian blue identity cards respectively to Tawau and Kunak in Sabah.
“In your statement to the investigating officer of the commission, you said that when you were working in Tawau in 1988, a Pakistani and a few Malaysians approached you and asked you if you wanted a Malaysian passport. The conditions were to stay in Malaysia... and to help the government by voting,” said conducting officer Jamil Aripin at the RCI.
“They indeed gave me an identity card,” replied Mohamed, saying he had also received a Malaysian passport.
Mohamed said he came to Sabah in 1987 to look for a job and received a blue identity card two or three years later.
He added that he has voted four or five times in elections since.
Aziz said he arrived in Sabah in 1980 to find work and received a blue identity card in 1987.
But according to the Citizenship Rules 1964, people who want to apply to be a Malaysian citizen by naturalisation must become a permanent resident for more than 12 years and have been in Malaysia for more than 10 years.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday that there was nothing wrong with giving citizenship to foreigners as long as it was done legally.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the country’s longest serving prime minister who was in power from 1981 to 2003, has been accused of spearheading the so-called “Project IC”, in which citizenship was allegedly given to immigrants in exchange for their votes.
But former Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh, who administered the state from 1976 to 1985, denied on Tuesday the existence of “Project IC”.
Dr Mahathir said yesterday that foreigners in Sabah had indeed received citizenship, but stressed that it was “within the law”.
Aziz said today that a government officer had approached him and his fellow workers in a restaurant here in 1987 and offered them blue identity cards, but said he could not recall which department the government officer belonged to.
“After four months, the officer came back to the restaurant and gave you a blue identity card?” asked Jamil.
“Yes,” replied Aziz, 54, who is currently a cook.
He added that he received a Malaysian passport in 1995, but has lost his Indian passport.
Aziz said he has voted four times, including in the Likas state constituency in the 1990 and 1994 state elections.
The High Court declared the 1999 election for the Likas state seat null and void on grounds that the electoral roll used contained phantom voters, including foreign nationals.
Aziz said he considered himself a Malaysian citizen and did not intend to return to India, adding that his three children all have MyKad.
Mohamed, 48, said the person who gave him the blue identity card had told him to register as a voter, but did not suggest any political party to vote for.
“Are you still a Pakistani citizen?” asked Jamil.
“No. I’m a Malaysian,” said Mohamed, who was wearing a white skullcap.
Mohamed and Aziz said they did not have birth certificates from their country of origin.
The inquiry before former Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Steve Shim Lip Kiong resumes on January 29.