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End Brunei immigration hassle: Harris
Published on: Monday, November 18, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Former Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh (pic) has again called for seamless travel between Brunei and East Malaysia, more so with the impending completion of the RM6 billion and 36km bridge from Muara to Tamburing.  

 He said he had written to Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to reintroduce and impose the Federal Government’s International Immigration Boundary Controls at the borders of Brunei and Sarawak.  

 “This is provided for in the Federal Constitution in the national interest,” he said in a statement. 

 “This was the practice immediately upon the formation of Malaysia from 1963 to 1985. Visitors from Brunei to Sarawak and Sabah only had one immigration checkpoint of international boundary of Brunei/Malaysia (Sarawak). This only imposed two immigration chops – entry and departure.  These days and from 1985, Malaysia –Sarawak and Sabah – impose eight chops one way and 16 chops return.” 

 Harris said for some unknown reason in 1985, the Federal Government imposed immigration controls at all entry points, not only those between Brunei and Malaysia but also within Sarawak/Sabah.   

 This, he said, resulted in Bruneians visiting Sabah having to go through eight immigration controls and get chops on their passport.   

 “A return journey will require 16 passport chops,” he lamented. “These are eight chops – six chops within Sarawak and two within Sabah has definitely caused hardship to Bruneians coming over to Sabah. 

 “This imposition by the Sarawak Government is understood to encourage Bruneians to visit Miri which only requires two chops as opposed to going to Sabah which requires 16 chops.” 

 Harris said all these restrictions by the Sarawak and Sabah governments do not make sense as leaders of Malaysia and Brunei, including Sarawak and Sabah, have pledged in many statements that Malaysia and both State Governments are closely working to maintain friendship between the people of Malaysia and Brunei.   

 “However, on the ground, it is a different story and the predicament of visiting Bruneians has been going on for over the last 25 years,” he said. 

 “All are part of the so-called economic cooperation called BIMP-EAGA which was conceived to address socio-economic development and the movement of people and trade within the area.” 

 During the colonial days, Harris said, there was free movement of people between Brunei, Sarawak and Sabah with no immigration controls.   Sarawak and Sabah leaders, according to him, must remember and acknowledge that both Sarawak and Sabah belonged to Brunei a few hundred years ago.   

 “There are many Bruneians living in Sarawak and with more living in Sabah,” he said.  “These Bruneians living in Sarawak or Sabah continue to practise Bruneian culture and traditions. 

 “The Bruneians can claim that Sarawak and Sabah historically were grounds where they roamed as nomads. Thus the Bruneians from Brunei Darussalam come to Sarawak and Sabah solely to visit relatives.  They like to visit Sabah more than Sarawak to shop for marine and agricultural products.”

It is further not understood, Harris said, when people of the same stock and race now live in different countries, not by their own doing or their leaders, but by the colonial masters dividing areas of Sarawak and Sabah. 

He lamented that because of this, people consider themselves Sarawakians and Sabahans and not Bruneians.  

The contention by Sarawak and Sabah that Bruneians may overstay and became illegal is nothing but a figment of their imagination, he said.

“The Bruneians are happy with their Sultanate. They have many privileges, a high standard of living, a low cost of living and no income tax and customs duty compared to Sarawak and Sabah.”

Brunei is a very well managed country, he said. “Infrastructures are of world standard. Bandar Seri Begawan is very clean and well planned with landscaping and greening. Strictly speaking, the cities of Kuching and Kota Kinabalu cannot match Bandar Seri Begawan. Buildings are more presentable by design.” 

Therefore, Harris said, there is no reason for a Brunei citizen to move or live in or become illegal in either Sarawak or Sabah as it comfortable to live in Brunei compared to Sarawak or Sabah. “Bruneians are proud to be Kingdom citizens,” he said. 

 There are many reports stating that the problems existing between Brunei and Malaysia were solved during visits by Malaysian leaders to Brunei, including the yearly meeting between the nations.  

He said the frustrated Brunei Government is now building a 36km bridge from Muara to Tamburing at a cost of RM6 billion which is due for completion by year end.  

“This bridge will cut at least four chops between Sarawak/Sabah or eight chops in the return journey,” he said. “Because of the non-cooperation between Malaysia and Brunei, the Brunei Government has also built a large oil and gas complex in Muara.   

“It was reported that the Brunei Government may also declare Pulau Muara Besar a free port having reclaimed 4,000 hectares of the island.  All this is a great loss to Sarawak and Sabah, which will ultimately impact Sarawakians and Sabahans alike.”

Harris hoped the Federal Government will exercise its power under the constitution to enhance a close relationship and cooperation with Brunei.  At the same time, the leaders of Sarawak and Sabah should take note of this.

“Forget about the statement Sarawak and Sabah will work closely,” he said. “Economically, Sarawak is going alone in all fields and keeping Sabah waiting. In the long run, Sabah will be left far behind Sarawak. 

 “The proposed RM6 billion inland oil and gas refinery in Lawas as opposed to Sipitang is one such case. Sarawak is practised in undermining Sabah in all fields.” 

Harris cautioned that Sabah must not get its hopes up by teaming up with Sarawak to go against the Federal Government.  

“Sabah can start straight away by doing away with the immigration controls in Sipitang, after all Brunei visitors already have passports stamped at the entry point of Brunei/Sarawak/Malaysia,” he suggested.

“This is a good gesture by Sabah to Bruneians, and with the completion of the bridge, will cut four chops – a total reduction of six chops – a big saving on passport pages and a great relief.”



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