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Give PR to deserving P'sula M'sians
Published on: Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: Former Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh (pic) said Sabahans should not get carried away with the "Sabah for Sabahans" sentiment and demand that all other Malaysians obtain permits to work or stay in Sabah.

He said there may come a time when the nine states of Malaya would also exercise their right to control Sabahans and Sarawakians working or staying in their states, and insist they have permits.

On immigration, Harris pointed out that there are three issues which have remained unresolved for years in Sabah.

The first involves professionals and businessmen who are foreigners from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korean, Japan, Australia, Indonesia and elsewhere over 20 years ago.

Although his then Berjaya government had worked hard with the Federal Government to get them either Citizenship or Permanent Residents status, Harris said there are thousands still in limbo.

He said the policy of the Federal Government is to accord Permanent Residence or Citizenship to those qualified, subject to the approval of the State Government. This procedure has been in force over the last 10 years so the ball is with the State Government.

The second involves professionals and businessmen from Malaya or Sarawak who have been in Sabah for 10 to 20 years, but have not been accorded PR status by the State Government.

"Of course, they do not need citizenship as they are Malaysians. A large number had married Sabahans with children who are now over 20 years old. Sadly, the parents of these children are still required to stamp their passports every year.

"Surely, as Malaysians they enjoy the Constitutional guarantee of Free Movement. Furthermore they are contributing to the economic welfare of Sabah and Sabahans and should rightly be accorded PR.

"It is ironic to find poorly-educated foreigners with Permanent Residence or citizenship status when educated Malaysians from outside the State are denied the privilege. I have recommended to the Chief Minister that permanent resident status be given to a large number of doctors and business persons from Malaya who have been in Sabah many years.

"I was informed by the CM that their applications were approved by him and passed on to the Secretary of Sabah Home Affairs for action. Many of these with my recommendations have applied time and time again, yet even after many applications, up to this day, they have not received approval for PR. Their approved papers remain in the files of the Secretary of Home Affairs, Sabah," said Harris.

He strongly appealed to both the Federal and State Governments not to further delay the application for Permanent Residence/Citizenships by the foreign professionals and businessmen who are qualified.

"I also urge the State Government to accord Permanent Residence to those Malaysians who have been in Sabah for many years. The Federal Government should also issue temporary identification cards as provided for by the Constitution to the undocumented workers who are actively contributing to the economy of the State," he said.

The third issue concerns workers who do not hold official documents.

"Sabahans should be reminded that it is not true that Malayans want to come to Sabah and stay forever. It is worth quoting the Minister of Education in Parliament that out of 5,000 teachers only 500 wanted to remain in Sabah, while the rest wanted to return to Malaya," he said.

On the plight of workers without documents in Sabah, Harris lamented that his earlier statement calling upon the Federal Government to address the issue had been misunderstood.

"I was very clear in calling upon the Federal Government to issue whatever form of identification it deems fit. I did not specify what documents should be issued. I feel compelled to make the call because almost daily there are reports that large numbers of people working in the plantation, construction and tourism industries are found to have no official documents.

"Almost every day we learn that large numbers of these workers are being arrested, detained and deported to their countries. This must stop. Sabah, and Malaysia as a whole for that matter, cannot carry on like this forever.

He stressed that the reality is that we need foreign workers because locals seem to be shying away from the jobs that the foreigners are prepared to do.

"We must make it easier for both the employers and employees to keep the economy going rather erect hurdles against those who are prepared to sweat it out to bring money to the State. Once these workers are documented with, say, work permits, Temporary Residents cards, or some other means of identification they will work harder and become more productive.

"This is because they will feel secure and can thus focus on their work. More importantly, employers do not have to play hide and seek with the authorities. The penalty for those employing undocumented workers is very heavy – RM50,000 fine per person, and five strokes of the rotan.

"Surely no one enjoys paying hefty fines or suffer the pain and indignity of being lashed. Why do we have to make life difficult for those who are prepared to take legitimate risks to keep Sabah's economy going?" he asked.

Ironically, Harris said while it has been reported that there are a few hundred thousand workers without documents in the plantation, construction and tourism industries in Sabah, it is also reported that a few hundred thousand Sabahans are working in Malaya and Singapore.

"Therefore, another solution is to bring these Sabahans back to replace the so-called undocumented foreign workers," he said.

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