Wang Kelian RCI: Immigrants acted as if they had been coached: 30th witness

PUTRAJAYA: The illegal immigrants detained in the case related to the discovery of temporary transit camps and mass graves in Wang Kelian, Perlis acted and behaved as if they had been coached and programmed by certain quarters.

This was revealed by former Perlis Immigration Department director Mohd Amir Othman, the 30th witness in the public hearing of the Royal Commission Inquiry (RCI) which is into its 10th day today.

Mohd Amir said on questioning 38 illegal immigrants who were handed over to the Immigration Department by the General Operations Force after they were detained in an operation at Bukit Burma on Jan 19, 2015, the replies given were the same as if they had been taught to say so.

He said despite the difficulties faced due to communication problems, the answers given were similar, that they came on their own free will and had volunteered to pay a certain amount to the agents to enable them to enter the country.

Mohd Amir Othman

“In addition to being coached to answer such, they also firmly admitted that they came voluntarily, which reminded me of cases of illegal immigrants who had been detained by us earlier.

“Previously, there were cases of illegal immigrants who chose to be arrested and brought to the detention depot as being in the depot was better than living in their own country,” he told the RCI six-man panel led by former Chief Justice Tun Zakaria Arifin.

Mohd Amir said their main objective was to possess the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) card which allows them to move freely, if they had a job they could not be arrested and they could only be charged if they committed a criminal offence.

He also agreed with Zakaria’s suggestion that the UNHCR card was one of the reasons which had attracted the immigrants, especially those from Myanmar, to enter the country.

The 30th witness who was among six individuals who testified today also said that 5,630 Myanmar immigrants were arrested by the department from 2012 to 2016.

Earlier the 29th witness, former Perlis Customs director Datuk Mohd Pudzi Man said he had difficulties in gathering information on smuggling of migrants compared to cases relating to entry of immigrants.

Mohd Pudzi who held the post between Sept 2011 and June 2016 said the Customs Intelligence Unit received very little information on the entry of immigrants and the information were vague.

“When the discovery of the transit camps and mass graves in Wang Kelian was exposed by the media, surprisingly it involved a large number of illegal immigrants,” he said.

Meanwhile, the 32nd witness, Perlis Border Control Agency (Aksem) commander, DSP Syed Basri Syed Ali proposed that a commanding officer be positioned at the border to coordinate and strengthen enforcement operations.

He said this was important to avoid overlapping orders in law enforcement operations at the border which currently involves various security agencies including the Customs, Immigrations and Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM).

Syed Basri said currently each security agency operated according to their respective standard operating procedures (SOPs) and due to the absence of one command, assignments were not well coordinated or organised.

The public hearing continues tomorrow. – Bernama