The online news portal of TV5
KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia will launch a probe into the presence of thousands of Filipino and Indonesian illegal migrants on Borneo island amid claims they have been given citizenship, a report said Saturday as polls near.
Activists and politicians in Sabah state have been demanding an investigation for the past three decades into their claims the foreigners had been given citizenship which had caused irregularities during ballots.
Since 1970, Sabah has seen a surge in population growth of 410 percent to 3.3 million in 2010.
"To ensure the Royal Commission of Inquiry functions smoothly, I have asked the attorney-general's chambers to get views and feedback from all quarters on the draft before the terms of reference is finalised," Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper.
The illegal settlers have been blamed for drug and crime problems, and local politicians say they are also tipping the ethnic balance against the mostly Christian indigenous tribes who used to dominate the population.
Malaysia's government has been on a drive to boost its standing in Sabah since March 2008 general elections that saw unprecedented gains by the opposition, with new polls widely expected to be called within months.
Sabah and neighbouring Sarawak state make up Malaysia's half of the vast island of Borneo, which is shared with Indonesia and Brunei.
Sandwiched by the Philippines in the north, and Indonesia's Kalimantan to the south, resource-rich Sabah is a magnet for immigrant workers who for decades have come to labour on construction sites and oil palm plantations.
Sabah reportedly has more than half-a-million illegals from the poverty-hit Southeast Asian countries.
Hailing the announcement, V.K. Liew, deputy minister in the prime minister's department said the probe must ensure Malaysia's sovereignty would never be undermined by the presence of immigrants.
But the inquiry could take a long period to complete and it is not clear if the commission's recommendations are binding.