Stateless in Sabah

Josh Hong

The 12th Malaysian Plan report says that eight of the 10 poorest districts in Malaysia are located in Sabah. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, September 27, 2021.

THE issue of statelessness in Sabah is not a recent phenomenon, as it started way back in the mid-1970s, when the conflict between the Philippine Army, the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front forced tens of thousands of Suluk and Bajau refugees to flee and seek refuge elsewhere, most of whom eventually ended up on coastal towns such as Sandakan, Tawau, Lahad Datu and Semporna.

The situation became more complicated when politicians in both Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah sought to entice migration of more Suluk and Bajau people in southern Philippines to counterbalance the mostly Christian Kadazandusun and Murut communities in the subsequent decades. 

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