Malaya Ignorance, “Project M” may backfire part 1


A study into the plights of Transient Population in Sabah

It is public knowledge; as many as 700,000 transient populations in Sabah – with or without papers.  These issues have been highlighted by so many for so long and in so many versions.  Intolerant view is to repatriate them and that should solve the case forever.  This is a very shallow understanding of people, movements and the assumptions that Sabah can survive in isolation.

The reality is that their plights are too complex, seeking prescriptions requires innovative and creative solutions – brute force alone is not an option.  There is simply no way the authorities can repatriate all 700,000 of them.

The implications to the Sabah economy are staggering.  The state economy will not enjoy the 7.5% tax collected from plantations, because plantation operations will grind to a halt.  Rubber cannot be tapped, vegetables cannot be grown, fruits cannot be picked, new plots cannot be tilled and all these produce cannot be brought to the market.

 The construction sector will not be able to build new houses or buildings because there are no workers.  The construction sector has 130 business chains from sand and stone suppliers to hardware stores.  All will have to come to a halt, just because the construction sector has no workers.  Even if there are Sabahans which can fill the vacuum, the rate of growth for this sector will be much reduced.  We can forget about renovating houses, repair leaking pipes etc.etc.

In the past when jobs and development projects are plentiful the presence of these transient populations is tolerated.  The Contractors, plantations even the Coffee shop were benefitting from their cheap and willing labor.

Some politicians will not be where they are today without their support the government likewise the oppositions.  Their presence for so many decades has never been properly addressed; they were often treated as sub-humans.  As the result, they have never been properly assimilated into the main stream economy.

A gross mistake on the part of the government, instead they permeate into the informal sector unintentionally building a strong base which today threatened the very core of Sabah socio-economic fabric.

In the absence of any recognition by their host countries, they evolved their own social structure parallel to the local settings.  They took advantage on the demand for cheap and willing labor and built an intricate network of interdependent linkages which the local decision makers didn’t recognized and appreciate.

The only real threat they pose to the local social, economic structure is in the informal sector which to the local decision maker are petty issues which can be handled by the local authorities.

Often their perseverance, endurance, assertiveness and aggressiveness tend to marginalized local petty traders.  This natural evolution of social structure resented by the locals who being over whelmed because they refuse to improve themselves.

This is one of the major issues at the Bandaraya Central Market whilst their domination in the local public transport is complete.  In every level of the socio, politico, and economic web their presence plays an important role.

There are no doubts there are complaints about them being crude, lazy, spate of petty thefts and the source of social ills in Sabah.  These are common issues in any urban areas or common complaints between employers and employees.  An expression of fear common in all society and we are no exception to the rule.

Often the source of differences is over perceptions, miscommunication or unfair treatments.  In short it is due to our lack of understanding of the complexities in their social structure and behavior.  If they are really that bad, how is it that their services are still being sought for so long?  Their social structure exists and expand through the decades, it has deep roots in the social, economic and politico fabric in Sabah.

Today dismantling the transient population structure is the same as ripping off part of our socio, politico and economic fabric.  This will have massive, far-reaching and dire consequences to all of us.

Repatriating them will cost the government not less than RM210 million (say it will conservatively cost the government RM300.00 to send one person home).  Even when the authorities only repatriate 100,000 of them, it will still cost the government RM30 million.

Money is an issue but in this context irrelevant.  The sorry state of our detention centre is not adequate to hold the transient Population even on temporary basis, the number of Police, Immigration and Military personnel assigned to these tasks are simply inadequate.  None of these personnel are trained to handle community work and managing the repatriation exercise is not a criminal process rather a civil case.

There is more than one issue involved  the issues include politics, economics social and diplomatic relations.  Getting rid of Drug abuse, bad hats, gambling are simply the excuses to justify the massive operations launched by the Police, Immigration and Municipal officer’s albeit with the full support of the Military personnel.

The reality is that the government while serious trying to tackle the issue of transient population is also faced with the above constraints.

The discussion will continue to Malaya Ignorance, “Project M may” backfire part 2 ……

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About gurkahsiber
I like to read, I like to think and I like to write

One Response to Malaya Ignorance, “Project M” may backfire part 1

  1. vincentgoh75 says:

    So Bos, looks like everyone is making use of the Transient Population, let them stay lah

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