By : JAMIL MIRDAD
KOTA KINABALU: The Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on Illegal Immigrants in Sabah Tuesday heard an interesting insight of the psyche of the Filipino immigrants in Sabah.
In his testimony, Said Daud from Basilan Mindanao, Philippines who is now a permanent resident in Sabah residing in Labuan, said he believed most if not all Sulu refugees in Sabah are against the bloody incursion of Lahad Datu by the Sulu militant group who proclaimed themselves as the followers of the self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu Sultanate, Sultan Jamalul Kiram II.
He believed the refugees, much like himself would rather choose Malaysia instead of their former home Philippines if they are forced to take sides.
“All of us in Labuan do not support them (Sulu armed intruders). In fact, we are angry with their action. Even if they call for us, we will never come to their support,” he said.
Asked why they are opposed the persisting territorial claims by their fellow countrymen, he said the refugees who fled the conflict-stricken Mindanao in search of better future in Sabah decades ago have become more Malaysian than Filipinos.
“We consider ourselves people of Malaysia, because we have lived here most our lives, and our lives here are better (compared to Mindanao),” explained Said, who was the 114th witness called before the Commission since early this year.
Fellow refugee from Basilan, Bensar Sabtula, also expressed the same sentiment and rejected the act of aggression by Sulu Sulatanate throne claimant, Jamalul Kiram III, who in his attempt to revive territorial claims on Sabah sent hundreds of men into battle with Malaysian forces.
Bensar, a resident chief of Labuan’s Kiansam refugee settlement, said he could attest for the people at the scheme that their loyalty is to Sabah and not the long defunct Sultanate.
“I too no longer consider myself as Filipinos. I have stayed here for more than 30 years,” he said, adding that he came to Sabah in 1981 without any document through Sandakan using Kumpit (small vessel).
In responding to questions from the Conducting Officer earlier, Bensar informed the residents move to the scheme with consent from the Task Force after their previous settlement were gutted by fire.
The Kiansam settlement was opened in 2002 and today has houses some 1,538 refugees, mostly from the Bajau, Suluk and Iyakan ethnics.
According to him, majority of the residents have IMM13, Burung Burung, and Banci.
He also informed that some of the earlier residents have qualified for MyKad, with some 70 of them have registered as voters to embrace their rights as recognized citizens of Malaysia.
There are however a few who still do not have any documentation, he added.
The Commission also called two other witnesses to probe allegations in news portal last year that Sabah Indian Muslim Chamber of Commerce and Industry was involved in helping Indian nationals in Sabah gain Malaysian citizenship through the back doors.
Former Secretary General of the Chamber, Mohd Ansar Maidin, dismissed the allegation as unfounded claims from a disgruntled individual.
He explained members of the association only help workers from India get their work permit and not MyKad as reported.