KOTA KINABALU: A massive re-registration of the nation's 13 million voters is necessary to clean up any doubts in the electoral rolls once and for all, said a senior Election Commission officer.
Sabah Election Commission director Datuk Mohd Idrus Ismail however acknowledged that such a task would be monumental as it would involve not only amending the necessary laws but the Constitution as well.
Testifying at the ongoing Royal Commission of Inquiry on Sabah's illegal immigrant problem, he said the Election Commission was continuously cleaning up the electoral rolls of any doubtful voters or those who had died but these depended also on other agencies namely the National Registration Department.
Citing an example, if the death of a voter from the remote Sapulut region in Sabah's interior was not reported to the NRD, the Election Commission could not unilaterally remove the deceased from the electoral rolls.
Responding to a question from Conducting Officer Manoj Kurup, Mohd Idrus said the state's electoral rolls date back to 1963 when the state teamed up with Sarawak and the peninsula to form Malaysian federation.
''We registered voters who produced an identity card. We took their documents at face value,'' said Mohd Idrus when asked about the testimonies of several witnesses who had obtained identity cards through fraudulent means and subsequently registered as voters and casted their ballots in a number of general elections.
Meanwhile, Sabah National Registration Department director Ismail Ahmad told the Commission that crackdown efforts against illegal immigrants in the state have been met with interference especially from grassroot political leaders prompting the Chief Minister's office to step in.
The Commission was told of a letter from the Chief Minister's office advising state assemblyman against interfering in any enforcement action against illegal immigrants in the state.
Sabah National Registration Department director Ismail Ahmad, who had once served as the state Immigration Department deputy director, said there was indeed such political interference in these matters.
Shown a document by Conducting Officer Manoj Kurup, Ismail said it was a letter from the Chief Minister's office telling state assemblymen not to interfere in any immigration enforcement activities.
Ismail who headed the Home Ministry's lab in May 2011 to find ways of tackling the state's massive immigrant population noted that that the 2010 population census showed that there was one foreigner for every three Sabahans.
He said the total number of foreigners in Sabah that year was 603,179 compared to the local population of 3.2 million.
However at this juncture Manoj pointed out that figures from the Statistics Department showed that there were 889,000 foreigners in the state.
To another question, Ismail said a number of recommendations to reduce the number of foreigners had been proposed in the lab and these include increasing foreign worker levy in noting that the figure in the peninsula was RM900 per person while in Sabah it as RM500.
He said another recommendation was that the workforce in plantations by the year 2015 should comprise locals but employers had voiced concerns over these proposals.