Project IC is the name used in Malaysia to describe the allegation of systematic granting of citizenship to immigrants (whether legal or otherwise) by giving them identity cards and subsequently its current iteration, the MyKad. The alleged practice is centred in the state of Sabah in East Malaysia. The term is used mainly by the media as well as other political commentators and the general public. Another term used is Project M, the "M" referring to former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad due to his being allegedly involved in the spearheading of this project.
The alleged object of Project IC is to alter the demographic pattern of Sabah to make it more favourable to the ruling government and certain political parties, especially with regards to changing the electoral voting patterns. Former Dewan Rakyat senator and state assemblyman Chong Eng Leong alleged in 2012 that there are 700,000 "Project IC citizens" and that 200,000 of them are on the state electoral roll.
The project, in its widespread and intensive form, is suspected to have begun in the early 1990s after the entry of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) into Sabah politics. However, there were also allegations of mass immigration and naturalisation of migrants in the 1970s under the United Sabah National Organisation (USNO) government, and in the early 1980s under BERJAYA government. On a nationwide scale, illegal immigration is a major social issue. The problem is linked with alleged phantom voters also seen in other parts of Malaysia during elections.
I met the Sabah people who were involved in Project IC or Project M. One of the chaps was an ex-ISA detainee and another a former employee of the National Registration Department (NRD) or Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara (JPN).
These people showed me a very thick book of 1.5 million names of those Muslim Filipinos, Indonesians and Bugis who had been given Malaysian identity cards (ICs), or MyKads as they are called today.
Yes, these Sabah chaps had the details and full list of 1.5 million Filipinos, Indonesians and Bugis who had been given what was basically Malaysian citizenship. Officially, the numbers allegedly given Malaysian citizenship or MyKads was 600,000-700,000. The book that I saw, however, had 1.5 million names. And this book was compiled by those involved in the crime and who were detained under ISA.
But why were these people detained without trial if they had helped Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Umno or Barisan Nasional? Should they not be rewarded instead? And if they had committed a crime can't they be charged in court instead of being detained without trial?
The reason they were detained under ISA is to silence them. If they were not detained or were instead charged in court, the story would emerge. The government needed to bury the story.
It seems Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin and Megat Junid Megat Ayub were the key players, both also key people of Mahathir's inner circle and members of the Cabinet. (Incidentally, they were also involved in Anwar Ibrahim's Sodomy 1.0 case in 1998 together some others I know who handled Mahathir's Black Ops).
The operation centre was in Kampung Pandan, Kuala Lumpur, and the operation ran for a number of years (to be able to reach the 1.5 million target). The operation started soon after PBS won Sabah in 1985 and the purpose of giving citizenship to 1.5 million Muslims was to dilute PBS's Christian and non-Muslim voters.
In 1994, Sabah fell to Umno.
Whether it was 600,00-700,000 as the government claims, or 1.5 million as the conspirators claim (supported with the detailed list), the figure is large indeed. But the most important thing is it occurred, there is no denying that.
However, the truth was revealed many years later, ten years later to be exact. But rumours had existed since the 1980s although it was not until the 1990s that the story was confirmed as true.
Today we are hearing stories about Chinese nationals being given citizenship or MyKads for the same reason they did this in Sabah in the 1980s. And, yet again, the government is denying the story like they did in the 1980s. So, maybe, just like in the Sabah case, by 2030 the truth will be revealed. But by then 500,000 or 1 million Chinese would be Malaysian citizens.
The project is a complex matter involving political parties as well as government agencies including the Election Commission of Malaysia, the National Registration Department and the Immigration Department, which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The suspicions and allegations on the existence of Project IC started around the mid-1990s.
In 1999, a petition was made to nullify the results of the 1999 state election for the constituency of Likas based on the thousands of dubious names found on the electoral roll. The seat was won by Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) candidate, president, and former chief minister, Yong Teck Lee. SAPP is part of the Barisan Nasional coalition. The petitioner was Chong Eng Leong of Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), who lost that seat. PBS was at that time not part of the BN coalition. One of the witness at the petition was Mutalib Mohd Daud, the former Silam Umno Division Executive Secretary. Mutalib was from Peninsular Malaysia and migrated to Sabah in the 1970s. He noted at the petition that among the 43,000 newly recruited UMNO members only 14,000 had genuine identity cards.
Mutalib had written books exposing accounts of questionable granting of citizenship to foreigners. Among his books were IC Palsu: Merampas Hak Anak Sabah (1999) (Fake IC: Taking Away the Rights of Sabahans), Pengundi Untuk Disewa (Voters for Rent), IC Projek Agenda Tersembunyi Mahathir? (2006) (IC Project, Mahathir's Hidden Agenda?), and Lelaki Malaysia Terakhir (2007) (The Last Malaysian).
Another witness was UMNO's chief information officer Karim bin Ghani who was alleged to have written a letter to all UMNO branches in Sabah. The letter purportedly contained directions on the handling of Project IC. Karim claimed that he did not write the letter and that his signature was forged. The judge viewed his bare denial with deep suspicion.
The judge presiding the petition, Justice Muhammad Kamil bin Awang, ruled in favour of the petitioner and declared that the 1999 election result for Likas a nullity. He mentioned in his judgment that he had received instructions over the phone to have the petitions struck out without hearing -- an instruction which he dutifully ignored.
In 2007, the former Sandakan district chief Hassnar Ebrahim made a statement confessing being involved in Project IC. He was a former detainee of the Internal Security Act in 1998. He testified in the petition for the annulment of the Likas state assembly district election in 1999. Hassnar exposed in specific details of the modus operandi of project of which he had witnessed. He mentioned a secret meeting between former Sabah chief minister Harris Salleh and federal minister Megat Junid Megat Ayub in Hong Kong. Hassnar claimed that 130,000 illegal immigrants were given ICs in 1985 alone. He also claimed that the aim of the operation was to increase the Muslim population of Sabah.
It has been said that the project was a secret policy of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, in particular the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), to attain political domination in the state using the votes of these immigrants. The immigrants are picked from those communities which would more closely resemble the Malay culture or those who would most easily be assimilated into Malay culture. Main indicators would be if the immigrants were Muslims and if they speak Malay. It was acknowledged by the judge in the 1999 Likas petition in reference to 'Ops Gembeling', that the target of the operation were the "Malays of Bugis origin".
In response to a 2007 Parliamentary Select Committee, popular Malaysian news blog Malaysia Today alleges that UMNO had made a deal with the government of Libya and the Abu Sayyaf militant Islamic group in the Philippines to bring in 1 million new Muslim voters from Philippines into Sabah.