Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, dinner of Kulai 19 m.s.
DAP Branch held in conjunction with the branch official-opening held at Kulai 19 m.s., Johore, on Saturday, 29.6.1985 at 8 pm.
DAP calls for stringent laws to resolve the problem of the million illegal immigrants in Malaysia by making it a custodial offence for anyone who organises, assists, harbours, employs or aids illegal immigrants.
In May last year, when the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, Datuk Musa Hitam, went to Medan to sign the Malaysia-Indonesia Supply of Workers Agreement to regulate the flow of Indonesian workers into Malaysia, Datuk Musa explained that the agreement was intended to head off growing local resentment of rush of immigrant Indonesians who entered Malaysia illegally.
He said that with the conclusion of the Malaysia-Indonesia agreement, Malaysia could ‘trace each and every Indonesian that comes into this country, we can make sure they comply with regulations, that they are well looked after and not exploited, and that they don’t run around, so to speak’.
The Malaysia-Indonesia Agreement has proved to be a failure on every
score, for it has not only been unable to overcome the grave problem of illegal
Indonesian immigrants, it has even failed to keep check on the first batch
of 100 Indonesians brought into Malaysia under the agreement.
About 65 of the 100 workers who arrived at the United Plantations Bhd estate in
Teluk Intan soon began asking for their passports to be returned so they could leave,
and when they didn’t get them, they just disappeared leaving their passports behind.
As the Malaysian government has failed to keep cheek on all the first 100 Indonesian
workers brought into Malaysia under the Agreement, is it any wonder that it has
no check whatsoever on the 800,000 to one million illegal Indonesian immigrants
The presence of the illegal foreign nationals, in particular the
illegal Indonesian immigrants and the so-called Filipino ‘refugees’, pose
grave socio-economic and law and order problems for Malaysians and the Country.
Unfortunately, up till now, the Barisan Nasional government has
refused to give this problem the seriousness it deserves, giving the impression
that the Barisan Nasional leaders are condoning the illegal influx and
presence of the illegal Indonesian immigrants and other foreign nationals.
Up till now, the Barisan Nasional government, which has otherwise
been very quick to give statistics on all sorts of matters, have refused
to give an estimate of the total number of illegal Indonesian immigrants,
Filipino ‘refugees’ and other illegal foreign nationals in Malaysia.
Could it be that the Barisan Nasional government does not have these
figures, is not interested in these figures, which I doubt very much, I could
only conclude that the Barisan Nasional government have these figures,
but find it impolitic to make them public!
We are therefore forced to make our own prudent estimates of the
total number of these illegal foreign nationals in Malaysia.
Last month, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mochtar Kusuumadjaja,
told the Indonesian Parliament that there are some 500,000 illegal Indonesian
immigrants in Malaysia. I have reason to believe that this is a figure
on the low side, because of the tendency of governments to give a lower
figure of their citizens who are illegal immigrants in a foreign country.
In August 1983, one Indonesian source estimated that there were
as many as 500,000 to 600,000 illegal Indonesian immigrants in Sabah alone,
and this figure was approvingly mentioned by a leading Malaysian newspaper
which is known to reflect government views.
The number of illegal Indonesian immigrants in Peninsular Malaysia
has been variously estimated from 100,000 to 300,0000. Taking into account
the illegal Indonesian immigrants in Sarawak, the total number of illegal
Indonesian immigrants in Malaysia could be in the region of 800,000 to a
This has not taken into account the Filipino ‘refugees’, which
is estimated to be from 200,000 to 300,000, and the other illegal foreign
nationals like the Burmese Muslims, estimated at 20,000, in Trengganu.
Having over a million illegal foreign nationals in Malaysia
which has a population of only l5 million poses grave socio-economic as well
as political problems for the multi-racial, muiti-religious and multi-
cultural people, whether short-term, medium term or long term.
For instance, it was recently reported that illegal Indonesian mothers
giving birth in Malaysia have become not only a grave problem
and burden for Malaysians hospitals, but poses complex problems about
the status of these Malaysian-born illegal Indonesian children,
when they grow up in Malaysia, attend Malaysian schools and become for
all practical purposes Malaysians!
The later statement by the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Radzi
Sheikh Ahmad, that children born in Malaysia to illegal immigrants will
not automatically become citizens even though they are issued birth certificates provides
no assurance for the future whatsoever, Malaysians can still remember a few years ago,
foreign-national wives of Malaysians who had not been given permanent resident status,
were ordered to leave Malaysia so that they would not deliver their babies in Malaysia!
There must be a clear-cut policy on the position of the illegal
Indonesian immigrants, and their children born in Malaysia. If the
second-generation illegal Indonesian immigrants are allowed to be born,
grow up, school and stay in Malaysia, then the Barisan Nasional government
has in fact taken a policy decision that the first-generation and second-
generation illegal Indonesian immigrants will be allowed to become
part and parcel of the Malaysian nation at latest in the l990s, with
all the political, economic and citizenship rights and implications involved.
If this is the Barisan Nasional policy, then the government
must announce it to the people to let the people an opportunity to
decide to accept or reject it.
The presence of over a million illegal Indonesian immigrants,
Filipino ‘refugees’, and other illegal foreign nationals in Malaysia is
intolerable and highly detrimental to the delicate balance and make-up
of the Malaysian polity.
I find recent Statement by the Minister of Land and Regional
Development, Datu Seri Adib Adam, that his Ministry itself was short
of 300,000 workers and thousands of hectares of its oil palm and rubber in
Trengganu and Kelantan could not be harvested or tapped in the past three
and five years respectively, most disturbing.
This is because his figure was vastly different from the figures
given by the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, who told
Parliament in July last year that the Malaysia-Indonesian
Supply of Worker Agreement was concluded after “studies showed that there would
be a shortage of about 35,000 workers in the public sector and about 25,000 workers
in the private sector in l985”.
But according to Datuk Seri Adib Adam, his Land Ministry was short
of 364,926 workers last year. Is Datuk Seri Adib’s latest inflated figures
a prelude to opening the doors even wider for the entry of illegal
It is most unconvincing on the part of those who advocate
unfettered illegal Indonesian immigrant entry when it is borne in mind that
Malaysia’s unemployment rate is over 6 per cent, and that there is also a large
number of Malaysians seeking work overseas. Last August, for instance, the
Kelantan State Government estimated that there were about 60,000 workers from
Kelantan in Singapore, and most of them, were unskilled workers between 19 and 35
For the long-term future of Malaysia, we cannot permit the
problem of the over a million illegal Indonesian immigrants, Filipino ‘refugees’
and other illegal foreign nationals, to drag on without solution from year to
year, as every year would increase the pressure for their domicilisation and `
regularisation in Malaysia.
For instance, voices have-already been heard that the Filipino
‘refugees’ should be accepted as part of the Malaysian populations. This is
what a leading Malaysian newspaper editorialised in l983.
“The Filipino population in Sabah will top a quarter of
a million by the end of the decade. Already, 6,000 of their
children are in primary schools. The Filipino presence
in Sabah is no longer a political quirk; it is an established,
social fact. The sooner this is acknowledged the better, for
the time has come for an attempt at true assimilation to
take precedence over mere tolerance”.
The DAP calls on the Barisan Nasional government to deal seriously with
the problem of illegal Indonesian immigrants, Filipino ‘refugees’
and other illegal foreign nationals in Malaysia. The problem of the ‘labour
shortage’ in various sectors of the economy must not be used as an excuse
or justification under any circumstances for over a million illegal foreign
nationals to come into the country and take permanent residents, leading
to full citizenship rights in the l990s because of the coming of a Second-Generation
If the Barisan Nasional government has a will to overcome
the problem of the illegal immigrant influx, it is not too difficult to bring
this problem under controls. For a start, the DAP for calls for stringent
legislation to make it a custodial offence punishable with jail sentence
for anyone involved in organising, assisting, employing, harbouring or in
any other way aiding illegal Indonesian immigrants or other illegal foreign nationals
The problem of the illegal Indonesian immigrants, Filipino ‘refugees’ and other illegal
foreign nationals had gone on for too long without positive action, and the time has
come for all Malaysians to identify and recognise it as one of the foremost problems
with grave short-term, mid-term and long-term consequences for the people and country.