An argument broke out at the hearing of the royal commission of inquiry (RCI) on immigrants in Sabah today as a Suluk community leader repeatedly insisted that an opposition state assemblyperson was born in Indonesia.

NONEMohd Zaki Harry Susanto claimed that although PKR’s Christina Liew (left) was born in Indonesia, she managed to go on to become the Api-Api assemblyperson.

"I got this information from the Indonesians in Tawau, they confirmed that she is Chinese Indonesian, but went on to become a leader of the opposition.

"I brought this up because people only target the Bajaus and Suluks when it comes to the RCI... Don't only target one or two ethnic groups," he said.

At this, one of the RCI's commissioner Henry Chin said he was certain that Liew was born in Tawau, Sabah as he was the OCPD of that district at that time.

"Liew's parents were from Hong Kong and she was born in Tawau, and when they grew up she married an Indonesian.

"Your information is incorrect because I know her family when I served as OCPD of Tawau and I know she was born at Tawau hospital," he said.

Information 'hearsay'

However, Mohd Zaki was adamant that Liew was from Indonesia and had changed her name when she supposedly arrived from Indonesia.

"It could be that she was not born here but her birth certificate was done through late registration.

"I'm bringing this up because the people in Tawau told me," he said.

However, Chin stressed that he had to clarify the fact as Mohd Zaki's information was hearsay.

"You only heard about it, but you cannot verify that information," said Chin.

Liew was elected as Api-Api assemblyperson in last month’s general election and was chosen as the new opposition whip.

Mohd Zaki, who is former secretary-general of Persatuan Rumpun Etnik Suluk Sabah, was queried at the RCI on whether his organisation had helped Suluks in Sabah to illegally obtain citizenship.

However, Mohd Zaki who is also a former police officer, denied this, stating that all of its members were Malaysian citizens.

Asked about the Suluk incursion on Lahad Datu from the Philippines, Mohd Zaki said he was offended as the act had sullied the good name of the Suluks in Sabah.

“When I served as peacekeeper in Timor Leste, I met our Filipino counterpart who did not understand what is ‘Suluk’, they only knew what is ‘Tausugs’.

“The term ‘Suluk’ is only used in Malaysia, in Philippines such people call themselves ‘Tausugs’, so it is clear we Suluks are Malaysians,” he said.

'140k squatters in Sabah'

Also taking the stand today was Sabah Local Government and Housing Ministry Planning and Coordination Unit assistant secretary Hadzlan Jablee.

He testified that of February this year, there were a total of 140,499 squatters across Sabah in 35,957 illegal houses.

"The data is 90 percent complete with the exception of seven districts which did not submit data but they have few or no squatter areas," he said.

Hadzlan conceded that the squatter was a magnet for illegal immigrants but said there is a plan to clear the squatters and relocate Malaysian citizens there into public housings.

"But for the non-citizens there we will leave it to other agencies," he said.

A total of 10 witnesses testified at the RCI today and a total of 128 people have taken the stand since hearings began in January.-malaysiakini