RM300 million ESSCOM should not be a costly “April Fool’s joke” for Sabahans and Malaysians

ESSCOM (Eastern Sabah Security Command) has become a costly “April Fool’s joke” for Sabahans and Malaysians.

It celebrated its first anniversary on April 1, boasting about its success as “guardian” of security of Sabahans, and I quote from a Bernama write-up:

“ESSCOM Celebrates Its First Anniversary with Confidence.

“Come Tuesday (April 1, 2014), after officially starting operations on April 1, 2013, the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) celebrates its first anniversary…

“…Sabahans are increasingly confident with the ESSCOM’s ability in protecting Sabah’s sovereignty and maintaining security at the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZONE)”

The Director General of ESSCOM Datuk Haji Mohammad Mentek was then quoted as saying:

“ESSCOM has 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 Nov 2013”.

However, within 24 hours of the ESSCOM first anniversary celebrations, there was a second abduction of a tourist from China and a hotel employee of Singamata Reef Resort in Semporna on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at about 10.30 pm

As a result, ESSCOM has become a costly “April’s Fool joke”, giving Sabahans a false sense of security although more than RM300 million has been spent on establishing it.

Barisan Nasional MPs have called ESSCOM a “toothless tiger” but it would be more accurate to call it a useless “white elephant” costing over RM300 million with an establishment of over 500 people.

This is especially the case as ESSCOM has said that it is powerless to act in the abduction cases, as it has no authority to command, direct or order any action.

I agree that ESSCOM might as well be abolished if the government is incapable of carrying out a total revamp of ESSCOM to ensure the safety of Sabahans.

I believe needs an organization like ESSCOM to ensure the security of the East Coast of Sabah.

I call on the Cabinet at its next meeting to give top priority for the revamp of ESSCOM so that it would not be a “white elephant” or a “toothless tiger”.

It is no use of the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin ordering ESSCOM to boost its level of preparedness, surveillance and intelligence following the second kidnapping incident in the waters of Sabah without ensuring that ESSCOM can function authoritatively and effectively to ensure the security in the ESSZONE.

Barisan Nasional MPs have said the problem about the ineffectiveness of ESSCOM was because a Sabahan and a civilian had been appointed as its director-general, and who could get the police and military heads to take orders from him.

This should not be the nub of the problem, as the question is not whether a Sabahan or a civilian had been appointed ESSCOM Director-General, but whether he has been vested with the full authority to carry out the powers and duties assigned to ESSCOM.

If this is indeed the problem, then the Cabinet should immediately ensure that the civilian and Sabahan ESSCOM director-general is given full authority and powers to carry out the tasks of ESSCOM, and any person, however high-up in the police and military hierarchy who countermands the directive of the civilian Sabahan ESSCOM director-general or guilty of insubordination should be disciplined immediately and severely.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah