AS WE reflect on the current immigration debate in Sabah, one should remember the horrors of the Mindanao conflict in the southern Philippines, and acknowledge that a significant portion of the migrants who arrived in Sabah were doing so for their own safety, to escape a protracted and bloody conflict that could have easily taken their lives.
Sabah’s issue is a complicated one, with many components. For more than three decades, the issuance of Malaysian identity has been a core issue of importance to those in Sabah. Despite the fact that many migrants have filled positions that local worker do not seek, there is an undeniable animosity between Sabahans and the migrant community.
As the Royal Commission of Inquiry continues its investigation, several witness accounts have already contradicted one another. Getting a clear picture of the situation is what is most important, although many will draw their own conclusions and falsely implicate concerned individuals.
Due to laws currently in place in Malaysia, if migrants had not been granted some form of residency, they would be unable to legally work and send their children to school. Many are concerned that an influx of migrants would inevitably lead to higher rates of crime committed by foreigners.
One would assume that by providing alternative passageways for people to legally reside in Sabah, to educate their children, and to earn a livelihood, the likelihood of those individuals taking part in violent crime would decrease.
The main issue still at the forefront is whether previous administrations granted citizenship status to migrants in exchange for a vote at the ballot box. In pursuing the truth, the Royal Commission of Inquiry must act accordingly if they discover that decisions were made outside the boundaries of the law.
If crimes were indeed committed, the current administration would gain much credibility by identifying the perpetrators and putting the people of Sabah at ease.