AT FAULT.... They hire cheap labour and buy goods sold by illegal immigrants, says district officer.
LAHAD DATU: THE community leader lit up a cigarette as he spoke of the problems caused by illegal immigrants in Sabah.
He blamed the lax security for not being able to tackle the presence of many illegals, who have had a free reign to smuggle in, among others, contraband cigarettes.
"Just like the type I am smoking now," he said of the Astro brand cigarette that he bought at RM3 on the streets here from immigrant pedlars.
Oblivious that his purchase had contributed to sustaining the livelihood of illegal immigrants in the state, he said: "Those 'legal' cigarettes are just too expensive."
This community leader is not the only culprit.
The transient population is feeding off the convenience they provide the locals, from cheap goods to cheap labour, and that makes almost everyone responsible.
None, however, wants to take the blame, not even the community leader who said the enforcement authorities and security forces were not doing their job properly.
The arrival of the armed terrorists from the southern Philippines last month and the eventual battle to flush them out at Felda Sahabat had been an eye-opener of the threats, posed by the illegals.
Society, however, remained dependent on their supply of cheap products and services; and for that, they will keep coming.
District officer Zulkifli Nasir said many locals were in denial that they were a part of the problem because of the demands they created by buying the goods the illegals sold cheaply and hiring cheap labour.
He recounted how he came under fire when he tried to remove about 200 makeshift stalls at a parking lot at Dataran Palma here.
"From a few romben- gan stalls selling second-hand clothes, they turned the area into a full-fledged illegal flea market that eventually became a threat to traders running legitimate businesses."
When Zulkifli initiated the move to tear down the stalls, he was criticised by locals who backed the illegal Indonesian and Filipino traders.
"Despite this, the illegal structures were torn down. If we had allowed the area to remain as it was, it is tantamount to giving recognition to their illegal activities."
For some time now, Indonesian and Filipino immigrants have been coming to Sabah because of the hardship they face in their countries.
Zulkifli said they were willing to do anything, legal or otherwise, to earn their living. (NST)