First Admiral (Rtd) Mohd Imran to draft a memorandum in the name of Pakatan Rayat to the Prime Minister on ESSCOM and Security in Eastern Sabah which will be presented to Najib later this month
In the first place, on behalf of the four-men Pakatan Rakyat parliamentary fact-finding mission comprising MP for Kota Kinabalu Jimmy Wong, MP for Sandakan Stephen Wong and MP for Lumut First Admiral (rtd) Mohamad Imran bin Abdul Hamid and myself, I want to thank all the police and military personnel, as well as members of the public, we had met during the two day visit to Semporna and the off-shore islands and resorts.
They face great hardships and their efforts contributions towards the security of Eastern Sabah must be appreciated and recognised by Sabahans and Malaysian
First Admiral (Rtd) Mohd Imran will draft a memorandum in the name of Pakatan Rakyat to the Prime Minister on ESSCOM and the security in Eastern Sabah and we hope to present it to Datuk Seri Najib Razak later this month.
Here are some my thoughts and views on ESSCOM and the security situation in Eastern Sabah:
Firstly, members of UNGERIN which stands for the Marine Police Commando Unit, General Operations Force (PGA) and Army personnel who were stationed at the various tourist resorts are still attached and only taking orders from their respective units.
Members of PGA take orders from their Brigade Commander, while the Army personnel took orders from military commanders, not from Director General of ESSCOM.
Secondly, while the omnipresence of military and police forces in tourist resorts gave the tourists and resort operators the sense of protection, it must be pointed out that this is not the result of the decision of ESSCOM but the respective individual component units.
Thirdly, I understand that Markas Angkatan Tugas Bersama 2 (MATB 2) is still in functional commanding and controlling the three military services in Eastern Sabah. The MATB 2 was formed to execute Ops PASIR on 18 September 2000 in response to Sipadan and Pandanan kidnap cases. Its mission is to deny external threats from endangering the security of islands and coastal waters of Eastern Sabah.
Fourthly, the long-standing problem of illegal immigrants throughout the region. In fact, illegal immigrants are even running sea ferry services. Inside informer is perhaps the main factor in the recent kidnap case.
These four aspects show the ESSCOM is irrelevant, particularly when come to the question of command and control of police and military forces.
There is also the fundamental flaw which has not been addressed by the authorities when deciding on the setup of ESSCOM.
The Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak had said that ESSCOM was established under the Preservation of Public Security Regulations 2013 which was gazetted on 24 March 2013. Under the Rule 5 Sub-rule (1) of the regulations, an Eastern Sabah Safety Zone Committee was formed and chaired by the Chief Minister of Sabah.
The Rule 5 Sub-rule (4) allows the Sabah’s Chief Minister to establish any committee as he considers necessary or expedient to assist the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone Committee. Is ESSCOM a committee formed under the Rule 5 Sub-rule (4)?
If so, then by definition ESSCOM is not equivalent to a military or policing type of Command structure with command-and-control powers. In other words, it does not have any executive power. What is even more shocking is that the regulations do not stipulate the actual powers of the Director General of ESSCOM.
This may be why ESSCOM has ended up as a “toothless tiger” or a “white elephant”.
Should it be closed down? Is this feasible and the best solution to the woes of ESSCOM?
- Reforming the current command and control structure
- Adopting rebalance approach
- Overhauling intelligence unit
- Solving the illegal immigrant issue
From our fact-finding visit, the crux of the problem lies in the legislative flaw that does not spell out the powers of ESSCOM.
A parliamentary select committee should be formed to oversee the whole matter and to make recommendations and take remedial measures to resolve this problem.
The security problem in Eastern Sabah is an internal security matter and it may be more appropriate for ESSCOM to be replaced by a new Joint Command chaired by a top police officer. Further, the new Joint Command must be designed in a way that is able to solve the overlapping jurisdiction with MATB 2.
In the era of counter insurgency, Peninsular Malaysia was the main battlegroud where most of the police and military personnel and assets were deployed. The end of the armed communist threat shall lead to a revision of this strategy. An analysis shows that police and military deployment in the Peninsula accounts for 70% while Sabah/Sarawak account for 30%. This is also why troops from the Peninsula are sent to Sabah to reinforce the security strength.
For example 21st Royal Malay Regiment based in Pengkalan Chepa, Perak, was sent to Sabah last year to reinforce the Ops Daulat.
Recognizing the imbalance in the police and military deployment, it is timely to revisit the national threat perceptions and revise the stragegy to adopt a rebalancing approach.
During a court proceeding, a Police Special Branch officer HASSAN HJ ALI BASARI was accused of possessing advance information pertaining to the armed intrusion by a group of foreigners from the Philippines into Kampung Tanduo, Sabah, in February of 2013. The accused withheld all these crucial information from his superiors which eventually led to the tragedy of Lahad Datu incident.
The most pertinent part of the testimony was that the accused admitted “he was tasked with monitoring the visit of Datu Ismail Kiram to Lahad Datu but he was not asked to present a written report to his superiors. When Datu Ismail Kiram again visited Lahad Datu in 2006 to present Sulu Sultanate Identity Cards to 50 residents, he was again asked to monitor his movements only.” (Judgment of case TWU-45SO-8/4-2013, p.37)
Even though the accused was eventually convicted in August last year in the High Court of Sabah, the prosecutor did not cross examine to clarifying his claim. If what the accused said was true, then the Police had possessed the Datu Ismail Kiram’s activity intelligence way back many years. Such failure of intelligence analysis is clearly one of the contributive factors to the Lahad Datu Incident.
There is an imperative need to review the core business of the Special Branch. The Special Branch must be rebranded or replaced by a new intelligence unit like Criminal Intelligence Bureau so as to concentrats on collecting criminal and national security related information rather than embarking on collecting political information.
Illegal immigrant issue is no more a time bomb but a real threat. Thanks to the Project M Sabah is now flooded with a sea of illegal immigrants who mainly come from Southern Philippines.
The authority must run a full and serious identity background check in the whole Sabah state. If the issue is continuously neglected by the BN-led federal government, the security of Sabah will always be in peril.