KOTA KINABALU: Upko founding member Dr Ewon Ebin has led about 5,000 people, including committee members, to quit the party.
Ewon, who is a former state Science, Technology and Innovation minister and the Ranau Member of Parliament, said he made the decision after holding a discussion with Ranau division leaders.
“Our decision to leave Upko is based on several factors, including the failure of the party leadership to tackle illegal immigrant issues.
“Although the state government has decided to scrap the issuance of Sabah Temporary Passes (PSS), there are statements from state Cabinet ministers and leaders that the government will improve it to be more acceptable by the people,” he said in a statement.
It was reported that the government will issue the PSS to better manage foreign nationals residing in the state starting on June 1.
Before the PSS, several documents were issued to immigrants, including the IMM13 to refugees who entered Sabah in the 1970s; Kad Burung Burung, which was distributed by the Sabah People’s United Front (Berjaya) government; and the Special Federal Task Force-issued Census certificate.
Sabahans are said to be irked by the policy, as the three-year renewable document would allow immigrants to live in Sabah, as well as go to school, hold employment and open savings accounts at banks, among others.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal had announced the scrapping of the PSS after the ruling government’s candidate, Datuk Karim Bujang, lost the Kimanis by-election.
Besides illegal immigrants, Ewon said that the party had derailed from its original objectives.
“The direction and basis of Upko today have long veered off from the original intention, which was to defend and protect the welfare and rights of its members,” he added.