Suspicions over the integrity of a Malaysian government program popularly known as “Project M” that fast-tracked citizenship and voting rights for immigrants in the eastern state of Sabah threaten to complicate upcoming general elections.
Witness testimony to a royal commission of inquiry into the program suggests that large-scale fraud took place in Sabah in the 1990s. The revelations have raised new questions about the accuracy of the country’s voter rolls, an issue opposition politicians and civil society activists have highlighted at street rallies calling for electoral reforms.
The inquiry, which was set up last August, has heard witnesses testify that government officials loyal to the ruling United Malays Nasional Organization (UMNO) engaged in undercover operations to topple the then ruling party in Sabah, the multi-ethnic Parti Bersatu Sabah (Sabah United Party), which at the time was in opposition at the federal level.
The party was apparently perceived by some UMNO loyalists to be “Christian-led” and the covert objective was to replace it with a state-level coalition that would be more “friendly to Islam” under the umbrella of the federal-level ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.