Four-men PR fact-finding parliamentary visit to Semporna to find out whether ESSCOM is “toothless tiger” or “white elephant” and whether it should be closed down as being utterly ineffective

Together with the DAP Sabah Chairman and MP for Kota Kinabalu, Jimmy Wong Sze Phing, DAP Sabah Deputy Chairman and MP for Sandakan Stephen Wong Tien Fatt and the PKR MP for Lumut, First Admiral Mohamad Imran bin Abdul Hamid, I am visiting Semporna today for a fact-finding visit to ascertain what could be done by the Malaysian government to ensure greater ESSCOM effectiveness and greater security for Eastern Sabah.

This is the direct result of the month-long parliamentary meeting which ended last Thursday which had put the national spotlight on the effectiveness of ESSCOM and the security of Eastern Sabah.

In the last week of Parliament, the DAP MP for Sandakan Stephen Wong created parliamentary history when he succeeded in adjourning parliamentary proceedings to have a debate on a matter of “urgent, definite public importance” to highlight the ineffectiveness of Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) and its failure to be the guardian of security in Eastern Sabah following the second abduction of a tourist from China on April 2 – the second abduction in five months and less than 24 hours after the first anniversary celebrations of ESSCOM.

I had described the first ESSCOM anniversary celebrations on April 1 as an “April Fool’s joke” to the people of Sabah and Malaysia, as the ESSCOM Director-General Datuk Mohamad Mentek 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 2013”, but in less than 24 hours, there was a second abduction of a tourist from China and a hotel employee of Singamata Reef Resort in Semporna at about 10.30 pm on April 2!

Parliamentarians, whether from Pakatan Rakyat or Barisan Nasional, do not want ESSCOM to be an expensive April Fool’s Joke, costing over RM300 million to be a mere “toothless tiger” or worse a “white elephant” which could play no meaningful or effective role to ensure the security and safety of Eastern Sabah.

In the urgent parliamentary debate in Parliament on the failures of ESSCOM to ensure security and safety of Eastern Sabah, not only Pakatan Rakyat MPs like Stephen Wong and Jimmy Wong, who spoke up for a total revamp of ESSCOM, Barisan Nasional MPs like the MP for Kalabakan Datuk Seri Panglima Abdul Ghapur bin Salleh even endorsed the call for the closure of ESSCOM.

It is no exaggeration to say that Stephen Wong’s emergency debate on ESSCOM brought out the best of Sabah MPs in Parliament in the 50-year history of Sabah in Malaysia, for the voice of the people of Sabah were fully united in the highest legislature of the country.

But the last meeting of Parliament also saw the worst of Sabah MPs in Parliament, which I will mention in a short while.

The four-men PR parliamentary fact-finding visit to Semporna today will focus on whether ESSCOM is a “toothless tiger” or a “white elephant” and whether it should be closed down as making no contribution to the security of Eastern Sabah.

Just before the first anniversary of ESSCOM, Mohamad was very effusive about the success in combining the roles of the four components in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZONE) – Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM), Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM), Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (APMM) and public agencies – but the ESSCOM Corporate Communications head, Newmond Tibin, had said after the Semporna abduction on April 2 that ESSCOM was “powerless” to act with regard to the abductions as it has “no authority to command, direct or order any action”

In reply to a supplementary question in Parliament last Thursday, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said that the question whether ESSCOM director-general will be given executive powers and not just co-ordinating responsibilities is a matter which had to be decided by the Cabinet.

If ESSCOM is going to be responsible for the security, not just intrusion like the Lahad Datu incident but also criminal activities by foreigners entering Sabah like abductions, then the ESSCOM director-general must be vested with executive powers and not just co-ordinating powers, acting like a Super-Postman among the four ESSCOM components in ESSZONE.

On the last day of Parliament last Thursday, I had called on the Cabinet to vest the ESSCOM director-general with executive powers and not just co-ordinating responsibilities among the Police, Army, Maritime and public agencies in ESSZONE.

Is this a feasible and best solution to the woes of ESSCOM?

This is an answer I am looking for during my visit to Semporna today.

I said just now that the latest month-long meeting of Parliament had brought out the best and the worst of Sabah MPs in the Malaysian Parliament.

I have spoken about the best. What is the worst from Sabah?

Undoubtedly the dishonour goes to the MP for Kudat , Abdul Rahim Bakri, who as Deputy Defence Minister committed the grave parliamentary sin of misleading Parliament when he said in the Dewan Rakyat on March 26 that RMAF did not attempt to intercept MH370 when it was detected on military radar off the Straits of Malacca on March 8 as the RMAF had “assumed” that the plane was ordered to turn back by flight traffic controllers.

Abdul Rahim committed this parliamentary sin when he was pressed by the PKR MP for Lumut to explain the RMAF’s reaction or lack of reaction when the MH370 was spotted on the military radar – completely off-course from its flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Although Rahim issued a statement the next day outside Parliament that he was erroneous in what he said in Parliament as he had personally made such an assumption, which was not that of RMAF, and was subsequently “cleared” by the Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin of not trying to confuse Parliament, Rahim failed to turn up in Parliament for the subsequent two weeks to demonstrate genuine apology and remorse for his disgraceful parliamentary conduct.

There is actually a common reason why Abdul Rahim dare not turn up in Parliament in the last two weeks to apologise for his parliamentary sin and the reneging by the Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein to give a briefing to Pakatan Rakyat MPs on the MH 370 disaster – the sheer inability of the RMAF to give a coherent and credible account of what it did in the initial hours of the missing MH370 to prevent or minimise the MH370 disaster!

One of the pet subjects of Hishammuddin, who is also Defence Minister, is the need for Malaysia to upgrade the defence system to strengthen the national security in the future – claiming that this is the most important lesson from the MH370 disaster.

I am keeping an open mind on the question as to whether Malaysia needs to spend more money to acquire more sophisticated assets as a result of the MH 370 disaster.

However, before Hishammuddin or the military chiefs begin to lobby for more military assets and greater military expenditures, they should first of all present a coherent and credible account of what the RMAF had done in the initial hours and days of the MH370 disaster.

Imran, as former First Admiral of Royal Malaysian Navy, believes that there is nothing wrong with our military radar capability but something very wrong with our military leadership and personnel.

Hishammuddin must be able to prove Imran wrong before he goes around talking about the need to upgrade the military system in the country..

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah