DAP calls on Malaysia Government to officially approach the Filipino Government to repatriate the 200000 Filipino refugees in Sabah

Press Conference Statement by Parliament Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, in Penang on Sunday, 2nd Sept. 1984 at 11.30 a.m.

DAP calls on Malaysia Government to officially approach the Filipino Government to repatriate the 200000 Filipino refugees in Sabah

Two days ago, an Opposition Filipino Member of Parliament, Candu Muarip, called on the Philippine National Assembly to look into the conditions of some 200000 Filipino Muslim refugees in Sabah.

Candu Muarip said that many refugees have been living on handouts since only few of them manage to find gainful employment. He suggested that the Assembly either send a mission to Sabah or create a study group that would work out with ASEAN or Malaysian Government the return of the refugees to the Philippines.

The DAP formally calls on the Malaysian Government to officially approach the Filipino Government to repatriate the 200000 Filipino refugees in Sabah to their homeland in Southern Philippines.

These Filipino refugees had been in Sabah long enough, having come over 12 years ago following the outbreak of an armed uprising the Moro Liberation Front in Southern Philippines in 1972.

In reply to various questions and speeches by DAP MPs in Parliament over the years, the Government Ministers had invariably said that the Filipino refugees’ stay in Sabah was only ‘temporary’. But this temporary had lasted 12 years, and unless a new policy decigion is taken to repatriate them back to the Philippines, they would become more permanent than many locally-born people in Malaysia!

It is indeed a great mockery of ASEAN brotherhood and relationship that the Philippines should be officially still claiming Sabah as part of her territory, while we in Malaysia have 200000 refugees from the Philippines for over 12 years.

The Filipino refugees had been a great socio-economic and security problem for the people in Sabah, and the Malaysian Government should welcome any Philippine National Assembly mission to repatriate the refugees bank to their homeland.

Harris Salleh has deviated from original berjaya policy on the Filipino refugees

On the Filipino refugees question, the Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Harris Salleh, must bear a great blame. He had in fact deviated from the original Berjaya policy on the question of Filipino refugees.

There is no doubt that if Tun Fuad and other founding Berjaya leaders, like Peter Mojuntin and Chong Thian Vun, had not been killed in the tragic and up till now mysterious plane crash of June 6, 1976, the problem of the Filipino refugees would probably had been resolved by now.

Tun Fuad was sworn in as Sabah Chief Minister on April 20, 1976, and one of his priority pre-occupations was to resolve the Filipino refugee problem, and on 11th May 1976, addressed a letter to the Federal Government listing out the Filipino refugees, and demand ing for the repatriation of the refugees to their homeland.

Unfortunately, he died very soon after.


Datuk Harris, on his becoming Sabah Chief Minister, adopted a completely different policy which tantamount to an ‘open door’ policy for the Filipino refugees. As a result, the Filipino refugees increased from 90000 in the 1976 Sabah General Elections to 140000 in June 1977 (a matter of one year) – a figure which was given by the then Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk James Ongkili – who is now Federal Minister of Justice.

It was because I questioned Datuk Harris on his Filipino refugee policy, among other issues, when I visited Sabah in Fevruary 1978 that Harris Salleh imposed the ban on my entry into Sabah since them.

Datuk Harris Salleh must explain why he deviated and violated the founding Berjaya policy on the Filipino refugees, which was decided by the Berjaya founding fathers like Tun Fuad, Peter Mojuntin and Chong Thian Vun.

Now, according to the Opposition Filipino MP, Candu Muarip, the Filipino refuges in Sabah have gone up to 200000.

This is a very serious situation, for it means that out of a 1 million population for Sabah, 20 per cent are Filipino refugees! When we take into further account the Indonesian illegal immigrant factor in Sabah, which is easily about 100000, then the whole picture takes on an alarming tone.

This is why Sabah has the highest rate of population growth in the whole of Malaysia.

Harris Salleh should either return to the Founding Berjaya Policy to send back the Filipino refugees and end the influx, or he should resign as Berjaya Chief Minister.

On the national and international plane, the Malaysian Government should seek an early solution to the problem of the Filipino refugees in Sabah, and President Marcos of Philippines should (i) officially drop the Philippines’ claim to Sabah as he promised at the ASEAN Heads of Government Conference in Kuala Lumpur in the late 1970s, and (ii) arrange for the Filipino refuges to be sent home to Southern Philippines with full guarantee to them of security and non-persecution.