JAN 17 – Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today explained why citizenship was given to illegal immigrants in Sabah, an issue being investigated by a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI).
Dr Mahathir said the process was within the law as the immigrants had been in Sabah for decades and spoke Bahasa Melayu.
“When I was prime minister, I was in power to determine the implementation of government policies.
“The government received foreigners to be citizens if (they) fulfilled certain conditions, furthermore those who are there are not one, two days but already 20 to 30 years and they speak in Bahasa Melayu, have the right to be Malaysians,” he said at a press conference here.
“So the problem is when there are people who are tidak senang (unhappy) when there are some who become Malaysians although those individuals have already long resided in Malaysia, that is what causes problems.”
That defence is weak, especially when those who have testified at the RCI say they were ordered to issue citizenship and receipts for blue or citizen’s identity cards.
An official accused the late former deputy home affairs minister Tan Sri Megat Junid Megat Ayub of ordering the National Registration Department (NRD)’s Sabah branch to issue temporary documents to allow immigrants to vote in a 1994 state election.
But what is most shocking is the attempt to draw parallel between his government’s action and those of Malaysia’s founding prime minister, Al-Marhum Tunku Abdul Rahman Al-Haj.
“One should also look back and remember that Tunku Abdul Rahman was worse than me, he gave one million to citizenships to people who are not qualified and not even tested?”
“Why is it when he does it, it is not wrong, and when I do it, it’s wrong?” he asked.
In the run-up to Merdeka in 1957, Tunku’s Alliance government ensured that non-Malays who resided in Malaya had a right to citizenship, which was agreed by all including the Conference of Rulers.
The thing is this, Tunku Abdul Rahman did not give out citizenship to subvert the electoral process. He gave it to those who had stayed long enough in Malaya to be Malayans.
Now that might also be Dr Mahathir’s defence but it flies in the face of the testimony given thus far.
A Malaysian citizenship is not something to be simply given except those born here or elsewhere with Malaysian parentage.
Anything less than that for electoral gains is a cheap way of winning. And a betrayal of the Federal Constitution, no matter the excuse of time in Malaysia or knowing Bahasa Melayu.