by Diyana Ibrahim
The Malaysian Insider
April 08, 2014
A minister has criticised the security in Sabah, branding it “unsatisfactory” one day after Barisan Nasional MPs joined their opposition counterparts and castigated Putajaya over the slack arrangements in the state.
Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz today said the arrangements were not up to mark in light of the latest kidnapping of a Chinese tourists and a Filipino worker on Singgahmata Island off Semporna, Sabah, last Thursday. The island is one of the top international diving destinations.
“This is not the first time this has happened. The arrangements in place should have ensured it did not happen.
“If we want tourists to come here, we must ensure that they feel secure and security has to be at the best,” he told reporters today.
Yesterday, debating a motion in Parliament, angry Barisan MPs jointed their opposition counterparts and demanded action in Sabah.
A backbencher even called on Putrajaya to dissolve the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), suggesting instead that the security efforts in the east coast of Sabah should come directly under the control of the Home or Defence Ministry, in the wake of the latest abduction.
Datuk Seri Abdul Ghapur Salleh said that the incident was a disgrace, adding that the federal government only realised that eastern Sabah was unsafe after the Lahad Datu intrusion by Sulu terrorists last year.
“And they put a civilian in charge of Esscom. How can he give instructions to the army and police personnel? Ghapur asked, in reference to director-general of Esscom Datuk Mohammad Mentek.
Police said initial investigations point to the Abu Sayyaf group as being behind the abduction, as a wide-scale manhunt involving Malaysia and the Philippines is under way to rescue the victims.
However, Esscom director Datuk Mohammad Mentek has dismissed reports that the kidnapping was linked to terrorists groups.
Nazri said the failure of the authorities there to improve security would not just affect tourist arrivals from abroad but also the local tourism industry.
“This matter is not just about foreign tourists. Locals will also not want to travel to these islands. There should be no excuse. Security has to be improved,” he said.
Nazri said despite the kidnapping, he would continue efforts to attract tourists to the country.
Nazri’s cabinet colleague, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, in defending security arrangements there, said although there were regular patrols carried out by Esscom personnel, the kidnappers in this incident had an organised plan, where they only carried out the abduction at 10.30pm, three hours after the Maritime Enforcement Agency left the area.
He said he could not agree with the suggestion that Esscom be dissolved, stressing instead that since its inception, it had managed to defend eastern Sabah.
Esscom covers 1,400km of the east coast of Sabah from Kudat to Tawau.
It was established in March last year by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, following the Lahad Datu incursion by armed Sulu militants, to strengthen maritime security in the eastern part of Sabah and to prevent terrorist activity in the waters off Sabah.
The latest kidnapping incident comes on the heels of a string of kidnapping incidents last year, including two cases involving fishermen on their boats in April and November, as well as last November’s kidnapping of a Taiwanese tourist from Pom-Pom Island. – April 8, 2014.