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Anwar should redeem himself in Sabah

By Joe Fernandez
It’s unlikely that Anwar had anything to do with the tainted electoral rolls in Sabah and with good reasons too. The modus operandi on the MyKad scam in Sabah, by all accounts, was in operation long before he became Umno Deputy President, Sabah Umno head and Deputy Prime Minister.

Indeed, it might even have begun shortly after Malaysia in 1963. The suspicion stems mainly from the number of people classified as Malays, not recognised as a Native Group, in Sabah.
In 1960, according to official statistics, there were no Malays in the state, as cited by activist Dr Chong Eng Leong in his book, Lest We Forget – Security and Sovereignty of Sabah. By 2000, there were 303, 500 Malays, a figure which has since reportedly doubled.

However, it cannot be ruled out entirely that Anwar knew about the illegalities taking place and either could not do anything or didn’t want to do anything, to put things right after he ousted Ghaffar Baba from the party leadership, the Cabinet and government.

Ghaffar, like Megat Junid and Aziz Shamsuddin and so many others, was willing to dirty his hands on behalf of Mahathir after Mustapha Harun balked at the impending federalization of Sabah. Mustapha Harun was seen as a stumbling block and removed as Umno Sabah head. Usno, his previous party, was deregistered to keep the increasingly rebellious Suluk and Bajau out of the political mainstream.

Indeed, Anwar had previously alleged in public that the issuance of MyKads to the illegals in Sabah continued long after BN had regained power in the state. Assuming that it was the votes of the illegal immigrants, refugees and other foreigners that turned the tide for the Barisan Nasional (BN) in 1994, it cannot be said that the ruling coalition needed such votes after the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) re-joined it in 2002.

Anwar had most certainly been kept in the know, as Deputy Prime Minister, by the government departments concerned, rogue elements and Umno operatives like former Sandakan District Chief Orang Kaya Kaya Hassnar bin Haji M. P. Ebrahim @ Assainar, now the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Batu Sapi head.

Hassnar, among Sabah PKR leaders, is particularly close to Anwar and reports to him directly on the political situation along the eastern seaboard of the state.

Hassnar, once incarcerated under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) after blowing the whistle on illegal immigrants being used to pad the electoral rolls, has publicly fingered many suspects and openly challenged the authorities on the issue but to no avail. He claims that even the Special Branch lives in fear of him.

He has admitted to entering some 15,000 illegal immigrants on the electoral rolls and attributed some 120,000 other names to other operatives working allegedly with the National Registration Department (NRD) and the Election Commission (EC). Hassnar is the only one so far to express remorse over his treasonous activities which, in his defence, he claimed was due to being misled by Umno.

Anwar had previously stated, more than once, that he had nothing to do with the illegal immigrants in Sabah but “had heard about the Projek IC Mahathir”.

It would be interesting to learn what he had exactly “heard” about this heinous crime against the people of Sabah.

For another, in sticking to his guns that a Muslim should head Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in Sabah, and thereby eventually parting company with party vice president Jeffrey Kitingan, Anwar had stressed that “the Muslims were now in a majority in Sabah”. Evidently, he didn’t make a distinction between Sabahans and those who had no right to be on the electoral rolls and even in the state. It was political expediency that mattered more to him.

Any number of ex-Sabah PKR leaders and members will testify on the stand taken by Anwar on the party’s leadership in the state to underline that the Opposition Leader did not hesitate to jump on the illegals bandwagon and capitalize on the phenomenon.

One oft-cited statement was Anwar telling troubled Sabah PKR leaders behind closed doors more than once: “As Muslims, we can’t simply ignore these people (illegal immigrants).”  He never explained why that justified the largely Christian Orang Asal being led in their own land by Muslims who were not Orang Asal.

Clearly, Anwar cannot walk away from the RCI smelling like roses by simply hammering the last nail in Mahathir’s coffin.

He has to own up to a certain extent and concede that he had erred as well, at least morally, and apologise profusely for his transgressions in the state. His sin in remaining silent has not gone unnoticed. Salleh is right on that score to say that Anwar’s hands are not squeaky clean.

The Opposition Leader has to reveal his suspicions, if any, on whether the modus operandi in Sabah has been extended to Perak and the four Pakatan Rakyat-ruled states in Peninsular Malaysia. This cannot be misconstrued as politicizing the issue. The people have the right to know the truth.

The Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, told a gathering in Dacca not so long ago that Prime Minister Mohd Najib Abdul Razak was willing to grant Malaysian “citizenship” to Bangladeshis on a fast-track basis. This should be enough to raise more than eyebrows given what’s being revealed at the RCI. It’s more than likely that the Bangladeshis would be issued duplicate MyKads in the names of Malaysians eligible to be voters.

It appears that Umno no longer has any confidence that Malaysians would vote for it in sufficient numbers to return it to power.

Hence, it seems the party has to resort to either padding the electoral rolls with illegal immigrants, refugees and other foreigners or getting them to vote with duplicate MyKads under the names of Malaysian voters. This disgraceful state of affairs is unprecedented in world history.

It would not be right for Anwar to turn up at the RCI and focus solely on the PR states and extrapolate, as an afterthought, that perhaps the same thing happened in Sabah. He will never be able to get away with that in a million years no matter how masterful his performance.
Anwar has to redeem himself in the eyes of the people, not just by crucifying Mahathir in Sabah, but by bringing closure on the “sordid” aspects of his chapter in the state.
That would be poetic justice indeed!   


Joe Fernandez is a freelance journalist, among others, who shuttles between points in the Golden Heart of Borneo formed by the Sabah west coast, Labuan, Brunei, northern Sarawak and the watershed region where three nations meet in Borneo.

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