Drive Away "Halaw"!

Early this month, my friend had given me complimentary tickets for the Halaw movie played at Mindpro cinema in Zamboanga City. Unluckily my hectic time didn’t permit me to watch that movie. I just gave that ticket to my friends so that they can witness the sufferings of people entering others country without legal document.  Students and the masses were urged to watch this indie movie.

Halaw is now became a borrowed term used widely in Sulu Archipelago, Mindanao and even in the Philippines.  Even before this movie made known to the public, many Tausug did experience this phenomenon in the past and still at present.

In early 80’s before Aleson Shipping made their voyage to Sandakan, halaw were boarded “lansa” or “tempel” [small vessel made of wood] from Sandakan port [now where the boulevard is located] to the port in Bongao, Jolo and Basilan. Back then halaw were had their identity – hairless [shaved hair before deporting]. Sometimes the term halaw is used to mock a person who shaved his hair.

Problem of Halaw:

Halaw is a shared problem among neighbouring countries particularly Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and the Sultanate of Sulu. Since the focal point of this problem started in Malaysia, the main issue contributed to this issue is the “Document”. Malaysia is one of the countries in Southeast Asia giving much value to the document issue. For a very simple reason, Malaysia is now a centre of attraction to the job hunters all over Nusantara.  If this country is allowing more undocumented people to come, the job opportunity intended for Malaysian would be wrest away by the foreigners – that’s how some Malaysian view as far as the illegal immigrants in Malaysia is concern. Allegedly, if a massive checking to immigrants residences conducted all over Malaysia, Sabah in particular, it is due to the demand of some Malaysian who got irritated with the presence of many Illegal in their land.

What did the Philippines do?

The Philippines, even at the pit of helplessness to solve the elusive conflict in Mindanao and Sulu, they had tried their best to give solution to the halaw issue via their agency - Department of Social Welfare and Development [DSWD]. Hundreds of halaw arrived in Zamboanga wharf weekly will be accommodated and treated in accordance with their means in the DSWD centres. After registering in that agency, the halaw will be allowed to go home. If their place is in Bongao, Jolo or Basilan some of them will be given free passes to board the vessels. Sometimes there were halaw failed to get that free passes. The worst is that some halaw who arrived to Zamboanga became alien in their own land – because some of them were born and raised in Sabah illegally.

The halaw who then reached Zamboanga City had been given an easiest access to avail passport from the Foreign Affairs office in the City; enable that they can get back to their family and work legally in Sabah. However, the government offer didn’t last, because that solution was ineffective to quell the halaw issue. There were some halaw seized again by the authority due to their overstayed in Malaysia. With that they will be thrown back to jail and experiencing the same torment inside the detention.

Malaysia’s Formula?

As a responsible country, Malaysia is offering a new approach to the Illegal Immigrants Filipino who stayed in the country for quite long times. The government is introducing a “Work Permit” for the PATI [Pendatang Tanpa Ijin or Illegal Immigrants]. The Philippines embassy in Kuala Lumpur is putting a temporary consul office in Sandakan enable the PATI can get the passport easily even without going to the Philippines. The result many undocumented Filipinos benefited of this program. However, today the problem still exists, because the levy for this “Work Permit” is costly for the people working in plantations, fisheries and agricultures. If only according to some this ‘work permit’ is as cheap as the IMM 13 [Pass given to the Moro/Filipino refugees] surely there would have been no halaw to be sent back home. But, that is impossible to happen?

Just to get a passport will cost hundreds of ringgit for a person.  If a person to get passport in the Philippines it will cost thousands of pesos [minus the fare from Malaysia to the Philippines] and to wait for a month before the passport would be released. Just imagine if you are only a construction worker, the maximum salary in Sabah for a helper is just RM 500 ringgit [sometimes below], how can you get that costly document?  

Viable Solution?

The approach been initiated by both countries, Philippines and Malaysia, is quite effective. However due to some hindrances and reasons the solution being applied was not that effectual.

To the side of Malaysia, the number one barrier is the costly levy being introduced by the government to all foreign workers. If the Malaysian government really want to solve the halaw problem they should check back where in their system the illegal problem still existing.

To the Philippines, it is obvious; they can’t handle seriously the affairs of the halaw. The halaw problem is the result of long conflict in Sulu and Mindanao which was planned by the government itself started from Marcos era, hopefully P-Noy would not mimic the vile acts of the tyrant Presidents of the Philippines.

Lately, the only Sultan proclaimed by the Tausug Citizens not Filipino, he followed the footstep of Sultan Shariful Hashim. He was the one who bravely started the hoisting of Sultanate of Sulu flag sometimes in 1 April 2007 in Bud Bukid, Parang, Sulu.
Since the De Facto government of the Sultanate of Sulu Darul Islam is now taking seriously in running the affairs of their People [the Tausug citizens] and their country, Malaysia and the Philippines must talk with the Prime Minister or representative of HRH Paduka Batara Mahasari Maulana Al-Sultan Muhammad Bantilan Muizzuddin II bin Datu Wasik Aranan [the 34th Sultan of Sulu proclaimed by the Tausug Citizens not Filipino last 19 March 2009] about this problem.

Sultanate of Sulu government could contribute much to the halaw problem, because most of the Tausug in Sabah and West Malaysia were from the territory of the Sultanate of Sulu. The Philippine government once and for all must give way to the Sultan to run their own government without any bloodshed. The problem in Sulu can only be solved by the Sultanate of Sulu government [If Allah will], not by anyone. Let us give them a chance to realize their dream for the people of the Sultanate of Sulu. 

I believe by just sending the halaw to their homeland is not a solution per se, but by solving the main cause to the problem would drive away the term halaw from our midst.