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Appeal for moratorium PDF Print E-mail

Future Global Network Foundation, an NGO that seek to instill international awareness for the plight of stateless people and the deprived lot, appeals to the State government and police authorities in Sabah for moratorium in carrying out operations against illegal immigrants. We have been receiving reports about rough handling and indiscriminate arrests and detention that victimize even those with valid travel and identification documents, sometimes without human compunction.

ImageIt is disheartening to note that Tausug (Suluk) and Sama (Bajau) ‘refugees’ in Sabah, Malaysia are experiencing severe hardships in the hands of the Malaysian police, apparently with the blessing of local authorities. According to media sources, the local authorities are not comfortable with the mushrooming presence of ‘refugees’ whom they indiscriminately call as 'illegal immigrants', especially those coming from the Sultanate of Sulu, the Tausug and Sama.

Reports reaching Future Global Network Foundation (FGN) stated that there are reasons to believe the current police action are specifically directed against the Suluk and Sama ‘refugees’ from Muslim Mindanao. Arrested and detained are not limited to those who are not in possession of valid travel and identification documents. When it comes to Suluks, they are indiscriminately bundled into detention centres even though they have valid identification documents. “Salassay di balai” (argue your case at the police station) is the common excuse of local police in their indiscriminate arrests. In some cases, those who are arrested could spend a few days in detention before their cases are heard and subsequently released.

Repercussion to the "Sabah Claim"?

If the local authorities want to punish the Suluk and Sama ‘refugees’ for the adverse actions of Filipinos, including Nur Misuari, regarding the “Sabah Claim” issue, they are inflicting a double jeopardy against the ‘refugees’ in Sabah. The latter have already been dumped and neglected by Misuari during his tenure as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) from 1997 to 2001, by not taking any steps to rehabilitate them. In retaliation, these people have begged of their kinsfolk in Mindanao and Sulu not to support Nur Misuari in any of his future endeavours. Consequently, Misuari lost badly in his election bid for governor of Sulu in the last elections. Talk to the 'refugees' now, and find out over 90 per cent of them would not recognize the leadership of Misuari. Therefore, what the Sabah State government and police authorities are doing is uncalled for, as it only courts a negative impact. Instead of getting the loyalty of people who hate Misuari and the claimants to Sabah , they are making more enemies out of would-be supporters.

ImageWhatever the overriding reason for the Sabahans distaste of the Suluk ‘refugees’, it is rather very unfortunate. Sometime ago, and even until now, the Suluk people from Muslim Mindanao still regard the Muslim people of Sabah and Malaysia as their brothers-in-Islam. They are glad to know that Sabah is still under Muslim rule. Therefore, they felt obliged to make their services available in anyway possible. In like manner, they also expect their Sabah brothers to help them, especially in this difficult times of their existence, in ways that will not compromise their ( Sabah ) sovereignty and national integrity.

But today, it appears that the Muslim elements within the government and the police authorities are the ones even more abusive in handling detainees from among the Suluk and Bajau communities. If by choice, or in return, the Malaysians in Sabah do not want any of the Ansar (Suluk refugees) in their midst, the latter may have to look for some alternatives, such as to appeal to the international community, the Middle East in particular, who may want to host some of the ‘refugees’ in Sabah. Surely it will ease the burden on the Sabahans. Muslims will be held in high esteem by their non-Muslim compatriots. Then, we will see how they would fare in the future without the Suluk-Sama ‘refugees’ from Mindanao .

Most likely, there are Muslim states that are in need of menial workers where these people can be of service to make a living. Many of them have already experiences in building and road constructions and some have even achieved skills in oil & gas industry as pipe fitters, welders, riggers, etc. Should there be a need for an organization or a registered company to handle the communication and repatriation arrangements, FGN shall be glad to fill the void. We only need time to make the necessary arrangements. But there should be a moratorium to the current police action against these people in Sabah .


Immigrants outnumber local citizens

FGN has also received complaints from some of the older ‘refugees’ who believe there are as many Filipino illegal immigrants in Sabah as the ‘refugees’, but they have not heard of any significant arrest and detention involving these people. According to them, they came together on the same boat, but the Christian Filipinos were being received by locals upon arrival, while they have to spend days to look for a place to stay. If there is truth to such report, where and what have become of the Filipino illegal immigrants who had sneaked in with the ‘refugees’ before? Have they all become legal or have they successfully merged with local hosts in the countryside or hinterlands of Sabah ?

Going by the statistics issued by the Sabah State government that the illegal immigrants outnumber the Sabahans by 2:1, that could not be further from the truth. But being the government of the day, they should have come up with the official statistics, itemizing the number of each group. In our unofficial survey, the ‘refugees’ from Muslim Mindanao is in the region of 600-700,000, while the Indonesians (Bugis and other ethnic groups) are also around 600,000. If it is true there are 2,000,000 illegal immigrants in Sabah, then we can conclude the remaining 600-700,000 could be the Filipino and other immigrants now roaming the hinterlands of Sabah .

Foreign workers import

Ironically, until recently, Malaysia was still importing manpower resources from other countries (except the Philippines and Muslim Mindanao) by hundreds of thousands. But in Sabah, the authorities are not keen to legalize the stay of the ‘refugees’ but sending them back where, after decades as refugees, they have nothing to start with in their once native land. Well, no one has the right to tell Malaysia to give these people a chance to work legally even as street sweepers and toilet cleaners only for them to survive. As of now, many of the ‘refugees’ are forced to engage in illegal business activities, like selling banned goods, for their survival. Many are employed well below the minimum wage but they have to work by all means for their survival. Many are paid their daily wage equivalent to an hour wage in West Malaysia , if not lower. For instance, factory workers in West Malaysia are paid a minimum of 35 Ringgit (RM) per day while in Sabah they get RM16 - 20 only. An hour wage for a pipe fitter and welder is between 15 and 30 Ringgits.

Perhaps, that is the prize the Moro people deserved in their struggle for self-determination and independence. The ‘refugees’ may just have to be patient until their turn comes in the way of Allah SWT. The important thing is they never beg from anyone for their subsistence. They have maintained their Marwah (self-respect) as a sovereign people although they are still technically colonized. They have held on to their culture and tradition, most especially their obligations as servant of Allah SWT. They never hesitate to provide assistance, to help others especially Muslims who are in need, whenever they are in a position to help. Surely Allah SWT will help them in their quest for freedom to chart their own destiny as a sovereign and peace-loving people.


Wallahu a’lam.


Ahmad Azam Abdul Rahman

Chairman, Future Global Network Foundation

15 July 2008