Daily Express
INDEPENDENT NATIONAL NEWSPAPER OF EAST MALAYSIA
Established since 1963
Sabah getting attack copters

Published on: Friday, May 09, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: Assault or attack helicopters are being considered for the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone) in the wake of the two latest cross-border kidnappings, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, said.

He said if approved, the assets would be deployed at the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom).

"We will take whatever actions and measures necessary to ensure the safety of residents and tourists in ESSZone.

I ask the people of Sabah to continue to place their trust, support and confidence in our security forces," he said.

He was speaking to reporters after meeting Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim over the kidnapping cases at his Sri Gaya official residence, Thursday.

Musa, who is also State Security Committee chairman, said the State Government would not compromise on security and would mobilise efforts to ensure that security of Sabah waters was tightened to fend off threats and abductions.

On the proposed provision of a monitored passage for entry and exit in the waters off Sabah, he said it would be implemented as soon as possible after further discussions.

He said restricted movements at certain times of the day in prohibited or high-risk areas would also be imposed on fishermen and tour aand travel operators.

Others present at the meeting were Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, National Security Council secretary Datuk Mohamed Thajudeen Wahab, Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib, and ESSCom Director-General Datuk Mohammad Mentek.

Five gunmen abducted a Chinese national manager of a fish farm in Pulau Baik, Lahad Datu early Tuesday, just over a month after a female Chinese national was kidnapped from a resort off Semporna, highlighting the security challenges Sabah faces.

The masked men, dressed in camouflage fatigues and brandishing M-16 high-powered rifles, grabbed Yang Zai Lin, 34, from Guangzhao, China at 2.45am.

The kidnappers, believed to be linked to Abu Sayyaf militants, demanded a ransom of RM36.4 million for their release.

In the incursion in Lahad Datu early last year, 10 members of the security forces were killed along with over 70 intruders who were behind the enemy lines.

Last November, Daily Express in a front page report had stated that attack helicopters were badly needed in Sabah to counter the recurrent kidnappings and the intrusion by the so-called Royal Sulu Army.

A defence strategist attached to a European nation told Daily Express that Sabah's security under Esscom can be better secured by fast combat helicopters like Singapore's Apache squadron who are on duty 24/7 in order to react to any fast sea borne threats that can come and disappear in minutes.

The defence strategist was surprised that no Royal Malaysian Air Force jets were based in Sabah, nor was there any attack helicopter squadron or long-range turbo-prop aircraft doing daily sea surveillance.

"That is why terrorists will think twice before attacking Singapore," he said, noting that the helicopters based in Sabah currently are Seahawks meant for search and rescue operations only.

Elaborating, Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said they were looking at either the Eurocopter Tigre or Apache Longbow.

However, he did not say how many units would be purchased.

Disclosing that he and Shahidan were sent in to assist the State Government following the latest kidnapping, he said deployment of more assets and manpower for Esscom are immediate measures being undertaken to prevent any further recurrence. He said the existing laws under the Police Act, Public Order and Preservation Ordinance and Public Security Ordinance would be enforced in the Esszone area in the measures taken to strengthen security in Sabah's east coast.

"The powers of execution would be given first to the police, the Chief Minister and the Home Minister to allow for immediate actions in Esszone," he said, adding that there were five steps, which would be implemented in regards to the nine proposals forwarded by the State to the Federal Government.

He said it includes the immediate registration of all vessels from sampans to ships by Esscom to differentiate local and foreign boats in the State.

"Seven designated sea routes will also be gazetted for foreign boats and ships wanting to enter Sabah waters," he said, adding that action would be taken against any vessel trying to enter, or exit, outside the designated routes.

Malaysia and the Philippines governments would also be strengthening the high-level committee to ensure that any vessel or movement at sea is closely monitored by the authorities of these two countries, he added.

"We are here to ensure that no one escapes from our tindakan," Zahid stressed. More guard posts and observation towers would also be constructed as soon as possible.

On the curfew, which was announced following the kidnapping of Yang on May 6, Musa said it would be put into operation very soon after a thorough discussion with the relevant authorities.

"The curfew would involve all tour operators and fishermen in the east coast including Lahad Datu and Sandakan," he said, adding, they were still identifying the high-risk areas for the implementation of curfew to restrict movement during certain times.

Musa explained that when a curfew had been implemented, all vessels would not be allowed to enter or exit the affected areas at certain times during the day.

"We have proposed nine steps which have been forwarded to the Federal Government and the meeting here today (Thursday) was to talk about whatever best steps to ensure the safety of the people as well as the tourists in Sabah, especially in the east coast," he said.

"We will not compromise in terms of safety and will do all we can to ensure the safety of people and our sea borders," he said, urging the people to continue supporting and trusting the Malaysian security forces.