Project IC Boils Over In Sabah
January 19, 2007 22:12 PM
By Newmond Tibin
Malaysian National News Agency
KOTA KINABALU, Jan 19 (Bernama) -- Former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee Hassnar Ebrahim shocked a lot of people, particularly the locals, when he exposed a Malaysian identification card (IC) scam or known as Project IC in Sabah, in a recent interview with a local newspaper.
The locals here are stunned as many of them who reside in the state's interiors have yet to own the sophisticated Malaysian IC or MyKad, but based on Hassnar's claims, it seems that the card was easily accessible to foreigners.
While Project IC is not a new issue in Sabah, it continues to be debated by many who express concern as the matter is related to the issue of illegal immigrants in Sabah which is perceived as the mother of all social woes in the state.
Hassnar, an entreprenuer, confessed that he unknowingly became involved with others who made it possible for thousands of foreigners to secure Malaysian ICs.
The former Sandakan district chief, while refusing police's request to make a statement on the issue, however, is willing to give testimony in court.
Hassnar was detained under the ISA on Aug 9, 1998 for two months, and then placed under house arrest for two years in Sandakan from Sept 6, 1998. He was also among the material witnesses in the Likas election petition trial in 1999.
Meanwhile, Sabah Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) deputy chairman Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan has claimed that currently there are 1.7 million foreigners in Sabah, including 600,000 who possess the ICs.
Responding to the allegation, former Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak challenged Dr Jeffrey to list the names of the 1.7 million people but the latter has so far not done so.
Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the state government viewed the matter very seriously and was doing all it could to solve it.
He asked those who exposed the issue to come forward and cooperate with the police.
"Do not simply talk through the newspapers. Cooperate with the authorities," said Musa, who also directed the National Registration Department (NRD) and the Immigration Department to explain the issue to the public in the interest of all.
Following the expose, Sabah police commissioner Datuk Mohd Mokhtar Hassan had requested Hassnar to assist police in the investigation.
He said the police could not complete the investigation into Project IC without the cooperation of those with information.
As such, the police were putting Hassnar's statement on the issue on record to speed up the investigation, he added.
Mohd Mokhtar said the police would not arrest Hassnar or anyone without sufficient proof to link them with the criminal activity.
Several residents here met by Bernama, however, admitted they were from the Philippines and had secured the Malaysian IC through the said project.
"True. Project IC exists. I secured my IC from the project in the early 1980's," said Fuad Arif from Tawi-Tawi island, the Philippines, who now resides in Kampung Sabang in Menggatal, near here, with his family.
According to him, he came to Sabah in the mid-1970's with his parents, and they had stayed at Pulau Mantanani before moving to the village.
"After living here for several years, I finally received my Malaysian IC in 1984. At that time, a middleman came to our village to distribute the cards.
"I still remember the middleman coming to every house in the village to fill up forms for the IC and collect the fee of about RM10 each for stamp duty.
"One of the documents used to support the IC application was the late birth certificate registration letter," he recalled.
Fuad said that once the ICs were ready, the middleman would return to the village to distribute the cards to the residents, who were immigrants and had lived there for a long time.
In fluent Bahasa Melayu, he said that his family believed that they would have a better future in Sabah compared to Tawi-Tawi.
"There is no unrest here. We are free to roam anywhere we want. We can go to Tanjung Aru, Mount Kinabalu or Kota Kinabalu," said Fuad, who is the holder of the IC bearing registration number H0504933.
Earlier, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) secretary-general Radin Malleh had questioned the authencity of ICs with numbers starting from H0288001 to H03840000, involving 96,000 holders; H0480001 to H05760000 (96,000); H0609601 to H0610000 (400); H0658001 to H0658200 (200); H0658401 to H0659000 (600); and H0666001 to H0666400 (400), saying he had taken up the matter in the Dewan Rakyat when he was the Member of Parliament for Tenom.
Another Kampung Sabang resident, Jamili Bungsu, 53, said the issuing of ICs under the project was rampant in the early 1980's until 1985.
"Just imagine, in the early 1980's at Kampung Pondo in Pulau Gaya (near Kota Kinabalu), there were only about 10 houses there. But the number soon increased to almost 500 squatter homes whose occupants were immigrants from the Philippines.
"It was not their fault that there were locals who were willing to arrange getting the ICs for them. Not many knew who were the masterminds behind the operation. It might have been done by those with high ranks as it was not easy to make an IC," he said.
Jaidy Kamlun, 26, from Kampung Pulau Gaya, said most immigrants who secured the ICs through the project had been living in the country for a long time and were involved in the state's development projects.
He said in Pulau Gaya alone, there were now more than 10,000 immigrants from a neighbouring country and most of them were helped by 'locals' to get the ICs.
"Of course the immigrants would grab the golden opportunity as it required no documents. Furthermore, they wanted to stay here. Most of them now have MyKads and can vote. As far as I know, the project not only benefited Filipinos, but those from Indonesia, India and China. The modus operandi was the same, that was, through a middleman."
He said it was unfair to link immigrants holding the ICs with criminal activities in Sabah.
"Perhaps some of them are involved in criminal activities or social problems but not all. Society's perception is inaccurate as we came here to earn a living.
"Our parents have lived in Sabah for a long time, and as a new generation, we do not desire to return to the Philippines. We are like the locals who love and are loyal to Malaysia," he said.
Jaidy supported the government's efforts to send back illegal immigrants to their home countries and prevent them from re-entering Malaysia.
"Let bygones be bygones. There is no need to determine whose fault it was. Let's work together towards a better Sabah," said Jaidy, who received his education up to Form Five here.
His views were echoed by his village friend Tamskie Abdul Said, 36, who said that until now, nobody knew who were the masterminds of the IC project that involved Pulau Gaya residents.
"Project IC was different from those involving fake identification cards. The immigrants preferred Project IC as fake ICs did not allow voting rights and the holder would be repatriated if caught by the police," he said.
Several quarters including political parties and non-governmental organisations in Sabah have expressed concern over the existence of Project IC as it could threaten the country's security and deny genuine citizens employment opportunities as blue collar workers.
In this regard, they have appealed to the government to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry to get to the bottom of the issue and ways to resolve it.
The state and federal governments are also aware of the illegal immigrant problem in Sabah.
Even the Barisan Nasional component parties including the PBS, United Pasok Momogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko), Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), Liberal Democratic party (LDP) and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) have been vocal in expressing their concern over Project IC. -- BERNAMA