PH Sarawak agrees state should preserve immigration autonomy

KUCHING: Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders from Sarawak are generally in unison with the Chief Minister’s determination to defend and preserve the state’s immigration autonomy.

One PH leader is Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen, who maintains that Sarawakians should continue to enjoy autonomy over immigration.

“I don’t think any Sarawakian, be it deputy minister, minister, Member of Parliament, assemblymen or even ordinary Sarawakians, will harbour the idea of abolishing immigration autonomy that Sarawak enjoys,” he told newsmen after the opening of the 18th Sarawak State Ordinary Convention 2018 by DAP National Organising secretary Anthony Loke here yesterday.

Chong, who is the Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, was commenting on the statement by Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg on Saturday whosaid there were moves to abolish Sarawak’s immigration rights, enshrined under the Constitution and Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), and that the proposal was conveyed to him by a certain deputy minister recently. 

The Chief Minister had said the state should maintain its immigration autonomy, arguing that it would be able to defend itself from any outside influences deemed to be ‘extreme’ and could disrupt the state’s peace and harmony.

Abang Johari revealed that a deputy minister had recently proposed that Sarawak’s immigration rights be abolished.

Kuching Member of Parliament Dr Kevin Yii shared Chong’s view, saying if anyone from PH had requested the state to give up its immigration autonomy, it would not be the stand of federal government.

He said PH had always acknowledged and respected the special rights and autonomy accorded to Sabah and Sarawak under MA63, which included autonomy onimmigration.

However, Sibu PKR chairman Abdul Rafidin Majidi had a different view, admitting that while it was the state government’s right to defend its autonomy, there should be some form of flexibility.
“Defending its immigration autonomy is the right of the state government as enshrined in the Federal Constitution and MA63.

“But, I hope that it will be flexibile and not blacklist and ban political leaders from the Peninsular Malaysia…like some of our PKR leaders who were banned from entering Sarawak before,” he said.

Nevertheless, he agreed thatSarawak had the right to blacklist or ban outsiders and defend itself from outside influences that were deemed extreme and that could disrupt the state’s peace and harmony, stressing that the immigration authorities should only act on strong police or court evidences.

Meanwhile, Loke, who is also Transport Minister, told reporters that as far as the Cabinet was concerned, the issue of taking away Sarawak’s immigration rights was never raised and the onus now was on returning the rights of Sarawak and Sabah as stipulated under the MA63.

He said it would only be fair for the Chief Minister to name the person being implicated so that the person involved could reply to the allegations and explain what had actually transpired.

“Even as a federal minister, I still have to go through immigration (when entering Sarawak ) and furnish my identity card…no question about it,” he said.

Both Chong and Dr Yii had also urged Abang Johari to reveal the identity of the deputy minister who had proposed that Sarawak’s immigration rights be abolished.