The Malaysian Insider
– April 15, 2014
Four opposition MPs are on a mission to find out if the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) is nothing but a white elephant, following the kidnapping of two foreign women from the Singamata Reef resort off Semporna on April 2.
It comes on the heels of a series of kidnappings from the eastern side of the state – which is a top tourist draw – even after the RM300 million security unit was set up last year following the Lahad Datu intrusion.
In November last year, Taiwanese Chang An Wei Chang was abducted in a raid at the Pom Pom island resort in Semporna, while Taiwanese businessman Li Min Hsu, 57, was killed, when gunmen opened fire during the attack.
Chang was released in December, 36 days after she was kidnapped, after negotiations with the kidnappers.
DAP national adviser Lim Kit Siang and three other opposition MPs – Jimmy Wong (DAP – Kota Kinabalu), Stephen Wong (DAP – Sandakan) and retired First Admiral Mohamad Imran bin Abdul Hamid (PKR – Lumut) – are on a mission to find out what Putrajaya can do to ensure Esccom operates more effectively.
Lim said that this was necessary given Esscom’s failure to be the guardian of security in Eastern Sabah, following the second abduction of a tourist from China on April 2 – the second incident in five months after the kidnapping in Pom Pom island where a tourist was murdered.
The opposition at a recently concluded session in Parliament dubbed Esscom an “April Fool’s joke” on its first anniversary, over its inability to secure the Sabah borders from kidnappings, after a raid by 235 Filipino militants in the Lahad Datu incident last year, and called for it to be dissolved.
Their call was echoed by BN MP for Kalabakan, Datuk Seri Abdul Ghapur Salleh, who also hit out at Esscom’s ineffectiveness.
Lim said in a statement today that Esscom director-general Datuk Mohamad Mentek, in conjunction with the maritime force’s first anniversary on April 1, had boasted that Esscom had “succeeded” in stopping the attempts by foreigners to enter Sabah illegally to commit criminal acts like the kidnapping of Taiwanese tourists in Pulau Pom-Pom on 15 November last year.
“But in less than 24 hours, there was a second abduction of a tourist from China and a Filipino hotel employee off a resort in Semporna at about 10.30 pm on April 2,” he added.
Mohamad subsequently defended the role of Esscom, calling on critics not jump to conclusions when “they did not understand the situation”.
He also said that his role was not to give instructions directly to the police or armed forces, saying the relevant directors within Esscom dealt with the enforcement agencies.
Lim said that following the April 2 kidnapping, the corporate communications head at Esscom clarified that the security unit was powerless to act as it had no authority to command or order any action.
Lim added that Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said in Parliament that the issue of whether the Esscom DG will be given executive powers or not had to be a Cabinet decision.
“If Esscom is going to be responsible for the security, not just for intrusion like the Lahad Datu incident but also criminal activities by foreigners entering Sabah, the DG must be vested with executive powers and not just co-ordinating powers, acting like a Super-Postman among the various Esscom components,” he said.
Lim said that the feasibility of this idea was the answer he was looking for in his visit to Semporna with his three PR colleagues.
He added that while the last Parliament meeting brought out the best in Sabah MPs from BN who also voiced their concern over the recent spate of kidnappings on Sabah, it also brought out the worst among them.
For example, when deputy defence minister Abdul Rahim Bakri (BN – Kudat) misled Parliament by saying that RMAF did not attempt to intercept the missing MH370 when it was detected on military radar on the morning of March 8.
The deputy defence minister also said that he had assumed that the plane was ordered to turn back by flight traffic controllers.
Lim said that although Rahim issued a statement the next day clarifying that he had personally made the assumption, he failed to turn up in Parliament the following two weeks to show he was genuinely sorry for his parliamentary conduct.
The DAP adviser also called on Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein to prove wrong the contention of former Royal Malaysian Navy first admiral Mohamad Imran who said that while all was well with the country’s military radar capability, the same cannot be said about the country’s military leadership and personnel.
Lim said that Hishamuddin must first prove Imran wrong before he thinks about upgrading the military system in the country.