Despite pouring hundreds of millions of ringgits into the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM), Sabahans don’t feel safe. Matters were made worse, when TransMedia Indonesia TV produced a 9-minute video clip, for its programme, Kontroversi7@Trans_7, which exposed ESSCOM’s failure, to combat illegal immigrants, militant activity, smugglers and kidnappers.
On Nov 1, Sandakan MP, Stephen Wong, requested increased firepower in east Malaysia, to contain the security threats and the illegal immigrant problem. The alternative, he said, was to close down ESSCOM.
Wong vented his frustrations in The Daily Express, by comparing the infantry divisions across Malaysia and east Malaysia. Sabah and Sarawak had only one infantry division, based in Kuching, whilst Peninsular Malaysia had three; in Penang, Malacca and Kuala Lumpur. Wong suggested that an infantry division be located in Lahad Datu.
He said, “Seventy per cent of the armed forces and police are in the peninsula, while Sabah and Sarawak only have 30 per cent. It’s very unbalanced especially with the east coast facing the biggest threats.”
Despite an injection of RM146 million for security and an allocation of RM44 million for development, Wong stated that ESSCOM had been unable to stop the numerous abductions in Sabah and that six kidnapping had already taken place, this year.
So, what does ESSCOM do and how effective is it? We read reports of hundreds of millions of ringgits spent on sophisticated machinery, but are they merely purchasing equipment, instead of using surveillance techniques on land, sea and air, reinforced by informants and intelligence gathering?
One Sabahan, who works on a plantation near Lahad Datu said, “Despite the assurances from various ministers, the risk of kidnap is high. There is a lot of uncertainty in Sabah and it is impacting our businesses and our livelihood.”
Last April, Oscar Ling of DAP in Sibu, asked the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim, to resign, because ESSCOM failed to guard Sabah waters, despite being funded by billions of ringgits of taxpayers’ money.
A slanging match ensued, with Shahidan shouting, “You should resign, not me! I am angry, because he thinks that the people cannot differentiate between billions and millions.”
This reaction is typical of an Umno minister. They get defensive, think that a query is a personal slight, and ignore the main issues.
It is not the first denial about the failure of ESSCOM. In 2013, the Opposition criticised the government for their delayed response to the Suluk invasion of Lahad Datu. Stung by Tian Chua’s claim, that the government had failed to protect Sabahans, they sued Tian Chua for defamation, and for destroying Umno’s reputation.
In June 2016, four hostages were released and the IGP, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, and the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, gave conflicting accounts of what had happened to the RM12 million ransom money.
Has Putrajaya forsaken the security of the Sabah people? Then, like now, Umno has done little, to improve the confidence of the Sabahans.
Source : Mariam Mokhtar@The Heat Malaysia Online