(4 February 2002)

They don’t want to take back their displaced citizens

KOTA KINABALU: The Philippines government are playing coy over the repatriation of its citizens who entered Sabah illegally.

Manila has no wish to accept their return, claimed Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Datuk Yong Teck Lee, yesterday.

"From my various conversations at various forums in the past, and my understanding of the situation in the Southern Philippines, Manila would prefer their people remain in Sabah," the former Chief Minister said.

Hence, he has cautioned the Government not to take everything coming from the Philippines – the influx of the illegal immigrants especially – at face value.

"We must begin to study their motives and their strategies in resolving some of their internal problems," he cautioned, while speaking to reporters after making his Chinese New Year rounds, at the Sunday Gaya Street Fair here.

He was responding to a host of questions in regards to the perennial illegal immigrant issue, which has plagued the State for more than three decades now.

Yong believed both the Federal and State governments have shown their sincerity in wanting to solve this issue, except that more financial resources and manpower are needed for more effect.

"The new problem now is on the Philippines side," Yong asserted. "I do not believe the Philippines government on its own is sincere in wanting to receive these illegals whom we want to send back.

"The latest administrative requirement that they (illegals) must get a pass from the Philippines embassy would in effect stop any acceptance of deportees from Malaysia.

"And at the same time they refuse to set up a consulate in Sabah because they say Sabah is part of Philippines, and they cannot have a consulate in another part of their own country.

When asked about the basis for his claims, Yong revealed that during his tenure as the Chief Minister, the Philippines government had on various occasions requested the State government to retain its people.

"But I told them that our stand is that we will keep the workers whom we believe can contribute towards our economy and our economy needs.

"All the rest will have to go back, and even those workers will be here on a short-term basis and that was part of the regularisation exercise to give passes to those workers that we need," he said.

Yong also added that the Philippines should be more serious and have a strong political solution to their conflict, to restore peace in Southern Philippines and to have a ‘resettlement scheme’ for these illegals.

He said a proper resettlement scheme is seriously needed in the Southern Philippines because a lot of the early refugees who fled to Sabah during the Philippines civil war in the early 1970s, have had their land taken over by new comers in the South.

"Malaysia may have to take up this issue with the Philippines government through the ASEAN forum.

"I’m not sure whether the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) still wants to get involved, but all these are relevant issues. This is part of the bigger picture that I am talking about," he said.


Datuk Yong Teck Lee
Member of Parliament for P150 Gaya / State Assemblyman for N13 Likas






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