By Dr Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser, 23 Jan 2013

We don’t usually get this opportunity to catch Dr. M red handed. The on-going Royal Commission of Inquiry on immigrants in Sabah had been demanded by Sabahans for years – finally, at this 13th general election, UMNO just couldn’t evade their demand anymore. This is what the Althusserians used to call “…contradictions coming to a conjuncture”!

“Citizenship for votes” – we all knew of it throughout the eighties and nineties but like so many other instances of BN chicanery in Malaysia, we had seethed in our helplessness. My old professor of Government, Samuel Finer used to say: “This is like cheating at chess!” Liberal democracy is supposed to be like a game of chess, so collaring recent immigrants and giving them papers to vote in an election is just not cricket!

Needless to say, the Sabahans have had it up to there! And that is why Ah Jib Gor had to accede to their demand for a RCI if he was to try and keep his “fixed deposit” in Sabah. And once the ex-officials start spilling the beans, there you have it!


But not one for appreciating the bounds of logic and the rule of law, Dr. M has attempted to throw up dust to try to cover up his finger prints all over the scene by raising the false analogy with the Reid Commission’s recommendations in the Independence package in 1957. Contrary to what Dr. M has tried to impute, citizenship for the Chinese and Indian Malayans at the time was not Tunku’s prerogative to dispense!

The granting of citizenship rights for the non-Malays had been one of the main demands of the nationalist movement united around the Pan Malayan Council of Joint Action, PMCJA – PUTERA. Far from grabbing recent immigrants and issuing them papers so they can vote as exposed in the Sabah RCI, the situation just before Independence in Malaya was in sharp contrast: In 1950, only 500,000 Chinese Malayans and 230,000 Indian Malayans had citizenship even though by 1947, more than three-fifths of the Chinese Malayans and half the Indian Malayans were local born. (Federation of Malaya Annual report 1950; MV de Tufo, A Report of the 1947 Census of Population) The jus soli principle alone was enough to enfranchise them.

The British colonial power had been practicing a divide-and-rule strategy in Malaya by withholding citizenship for the non-Malays as well as resorting to banishment (to China and India) to deal with those who wouldn’t listen especially during the Emergency (1948-60). Thus, the more liberal citizenship condition under the Malayan Union in 1946 (which was a universal demand during the just liberated world of human rights) was tightened up in the Federation of Malaya Agreement of 1948 because of the objections by UMNO at the time. The final Merdeka arrangement was a political compromise bearing in mind the various political forces while the Emergency was still on-going.


This RCI on immigrants in Sabah is an invaluable opportunity for us all to uncover the black operations behind elections in Malaysia. The RCI must spare no effort in exposing the whole shenanigan including subpoenaing the former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir and his then deputy Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who was in charge of Sabah operations. This scandal is as big as ‘Watergate’, which led to the impeachment of President Nixon in the 1970s. The perpetrators of this electoral deceit must be brought to justice.

We know the Barisan Nasional’s record as far as carrying out the recommendations of RCIs is concerned. The two most glaring examples are the Athi Nayappan RCI on local government elections in the sixties and the more recent one recommending the Independent Police Complaints & Misconduct Commission. We are still waiting for these recommendations to be implemented!

We certainly expect more of Pakatan Rakyat if they do come to power, including implementing the recommendations of all the RCIs cited and prosecuting those responsible for besmirching the institutions of free and fair elections in Malaysia.

The failure of the RCI to bring this inquiry to a satisfactory conclusion will forever bring into question the legitimacy of elections in Malaysia.

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