800,000 PINOYS IN SABAH MAY BE SENT HOME
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 Mahathir Mohammad, was said to be among the factors that led followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram 3rd 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.
Unknown to many, the Malaysian government has begun an investigation into the “phantom” project, which Mahathir denied ever existed.
On January 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 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 electoral list.
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.