800,000 warga Filipina mungkin dihantar pulang terutama yang terlibat dengan "Projek IC'' Mahathir
The majority, if not all, of the 800,000 Filipinos based in Sabah may
be sent back to the Philippines on the premise that they had acquired
their Malaysian citizenship illegally over the past 20 years under a
controversial systematic granting of citizenship to foreigners dubbed
Project IC (identity cards).
Project IC, which is blamed on former Malaysian prime minister Dr
Mahathir Mohammad, was said to be among the factors that led followers
of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to “invade” Sabah in February. Most of the
Filipinos who benefited from the project in the past are Tausugs from
the nearby islands of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
The Manila Times reports that unknown to many, the Malaysian government
has begun an investigation into the “phantom” project, which Mahathir
denied ever existed.
On Jan 14, or just two weeks prior to the sultanate army’s incursion of
Sabah, the Royal Commission of Inquiry began its hearings on Project IC.
Amid the offensives against the followers of Kiram, the royal commission was supposed to conduct another hearing on March 5.
Overshadowed by the skirmishes was the fact that in June 2012, Malaysian
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and the federal government formed the
royal commission to investigate problems related to illegal immigration
in Sabah, mostly targeting Filipinos and Indonesians who comprise the
bulk of non-Malaysian natives on the island.
Malaysian news reports quoted former Dewan Rakyat senator and state
assemblyman Chong Eng Leong as saying that in 2012, there were 700,000
“Project IC citizens” and that 200,000 of them are on the state
There are about 1.7 million foreigners, mostly Filipinos and
Indonesians, in Sabah whose population is only three million. Based on a
2010 survey, foreigners comprised over a quarter of Sabah’s population.
Sabah has 926,638 voters, according to a June report by The Star.
It was alleged that Mahathir, who headed Malaysia for over two decades
from 1981 to 2003, devised the scheme to alter the demographic pattern
of Sabah to make it more favourable to the ruling government and certain
Under the project, Mahathir allegedly granted citizenship to immigrants
(including those who are illegal) by giving them identity documents
known as the identity card and subsequently, MyKad. Another term used is
Project M, where “M” stood for Mahathir.
It has been said that Project IC was a secret policy of the Barisan
Nasional coalition and its affiliate, Umno, to attain political
domination in the state using the votes of immigrants.
Mahathir admitted that Filipino immigrants were granted citizenship in Sabah, but insisted that everything was done legally.
The project was said to have begun in the early 1990s after the entry of
Umno into Sabah politics. However, there were also allegations of mass
immigration and naturalisation of migrants in the 1970s under the United
Sabah National Organization government, and in the early 1980s under
Berjaya government. The two parties eventually merged to form Umno.
Prior to last year’s formation of the RCI, there had been several
government operations to deport illegal immigrants. These operations
serve to deport immigrants without proper documentations such as ICs or a
valid work permit.
The RCI, headed by former Sabah and Sarawak chief judge Steve Shim, is
investigating the reasons behind Sabah’s population growth which can be
attributed largely to the influx of Filipinos.
Among others, the RCI aims to investigate the number of “stateless” foreigners in Sabah given identity cards or citizenships.
According to some observers, the skirmishes between Malaysian security
forces and followers of Kiram may result in two possible scenarios: it
could hamper the ongoing RCI investigation and save hundreds of
thousands of “illegal” identity card holders from early deportation; or
it may speed up the process, especially since Sabah-based Filipinos are
now returning to Tawi-Tawi and Sulu provinces by the hundreds daily.
“These refugees could be those who were still waiting for their ICs but decided to just leave out of fear,” one observer said.
The Kiram family and Philippine government officials reserved comment on the matter .