Sabah RCI: Witnesses at odds over testimony

Badaruddin Ismail, a former Bukit Aman special branch officer who had interviewed former Sabah National Registration Department (NRD) director Ramli Kamarudin during the crackdown on Ops Durian Buruk, has claimed that the latter had admitted to acting on his own.

This is contrary to what Ramli, supposedly the prime mover of the operation, had told the royal commission of inquiry (RCI) on immigrants in Sabah at its first session on Jan 16.

Badaruddin, now attached to the Special Branch in Kelantan, claimed that Ramli - during interviews while under detention - had said his actions were for financial gain.

"He and his men issued about 16,000 identity card receipts... each was (worth) RM250, so they made more than a million ringgit in profit," he told the RCI panel in Kota Kinabalu today.

Badaruddin said Ramli had personally issued 2,000 of the receipts while the remainder were issued by his officers.

The identity card receipt is an interim document given prior to the issuance of a blue identity card, but is accepted by the Election Commission as identification to qualify for voting.

Ops Durian Buruk allegedly involved NRD officers issuing identity card receipts to immigrants, using the particulars of voters in the electoral roll who were dead or had never voted before.

This effectively created 'phantom' voters, where immigrants voted in place of genuine citizens.

Ramli, when testifying, had claimed that he had only initiated the operation after receiving instructions from then Deputy Home Minister Megat Junid Megat Ayub (left) ahead of the 1994 state election.

When conducting officer Manoj Kurup asked Badaruddin about this, the latter replied: "When I questioned him, he said no one gave him instructions, it was for his personal gain."

Pressed if this means that Ramli had lied to the commission, he replied: "Not sure".

Ramli had also said the receipts were only good for voting and nothing else.

He had explained that, because the receipt was issued to immigrants but in the name and identity card of citizens, it could not be converted into blue identity cards. Furthermore, the receipt had a three-month expiry date.

It was not explained as to why immigrants would pay RM250 just to be able to vote, but neither the conducting officers nor lawyers holding a watching brief pressed this issue.

Backing for 'lone wolf' theory

Also taking the stand today was Sarawak special branch chief Ibrahim Zakaria who had interviewed Ramli's predecessor Abdul Rauf Sani, who was responsible for 'Operation G17'.

Then a Bukit Aman special branch officer, Ibrahim had interviewed Abdul Rauf in 1996 while the latter had been detained under the Internal Security Act.

Ibrahim said he had interviewed another NRD officer and a civilian, who had also been held under the ISA, but could not recall their names.

"From interviews, what I can gather (was that) it was more of gaining profit," he told the RCI panel.

On Jan 17, Abdul Rauf had testified to the commission along the same lines.

'Operation G17', which took place at the beginning of 1990, involved issuing blue identity cards to immigrants, whether or not they were eligible. This was seen as a bid to alter the demographics in Sabah to influence the outcome of elections.

Questioned by lawyer James Ghani, who asked if Abdul Rauf had received instructions from political masters, Ibrahim replied: "He acted on his own".

Even when questioned further, Ibrahim stood firm that Abdul Rauf had not received any instructions and had only acted for money.

He said Abdul Rauf had illegally issued 6,305 blue identity cards and received RM167,300 for this.

 

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