Sabah Temporary Pass becomes hot topic for Kimanis by-election

13 Jan 2020 / 08:31 H.

PETALING JAYA: Refugees and economic migrants from neighbouring countries have become a hot issue in the Kimanis by-election campaign.

At the centre of the controversy is a plan to issue a new permit – officially called the Sabah Temporary Pass (or PSS for Pas Sementara Sabah) – to enable them to continue living in the state. The Immigration Department will begin issuing the PSS in June.

The PSS is renewable after three years. There is no word yet on whether or not the permit can be renewed more than once. This has become a point of contention for the permit’s critics.

A protest to highlight opposition to the PSS, scheduled for Wednesday, has been dismissed by Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal as being “improper”.

Three categories of migrants qualify for the PSS. The first category, numbering 51,646 people, are those who fled the Marcos regime in the Philippines in the 1970s. They now carry the IMM13 document that allows them to stay in Sabah.

Another 47,518 who moved to Sabah to seek a better livelihood during the 1980s now carry the Census Certificate while the remaining 36,892 who went to Sabah in the 1990s for the same reason, carry the Kad Burung-Burung. Most of them are from the Philippines and Indonesia.

Altogether, they number close to 140,000, but if their spouses and children are also entitled to the same privilege, the state may end up with an additional 600,000 foreigners given the okay to stay.

This has raised the ire of the locals, especially natives, who are also fighting for a share of the same economic pie.

The reason given by the state government for issuing the PSS is to ease the way for these undocumented migrants to conduct banking transactions and other official matters related to work, education, health and marriage.

However, detractors argue that this would legitimise their stay.

The Sabah People’s Education Improve Organisation (Pipa) and Solidariti Rakyat Sabah will jointly hold the protest over the issue on Wednesday. They will be joined by politicians Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, Datuk Seri Anifah Aman and Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee.

Organising chairman Benjamin Ondoi of Pipa said these migrants had already broken the law given that they did not have valid travel documents.

“Firstly, the conflict in Mindanao is over, so those carrying the IMM13 have no reason to remain here,” he said yesterday.

The Kad Burung-Burung, he said, should not be regarded as an identification document to enable holders to continue staying in Sabah. “Issuing them the PSS is against our immigration laws.”

Ondoi added the state government should have programmes to send the migrants home, but if they insisted on staying, they should be deported.

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