Expert: Proposed security setup too bulky

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PETALING JAYA: A defence and strategy analyst foresees coordination problems for the border security agency proposed in a bill tabled in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday.

Lam Choong Wah, the author of Are We Protected:Malaysian Defence Uncovered, said the inclusion of so many agencies in the new setup appeared to make it too unwieldy.

The Malaysian Border Security Agency Bill, which seeks to secure land borders against smuggling, trafficking and other illicit activities, proposes that the agency’s membership be composed of representatives from the Prime Minister’s Department, National Security Council; National Anti-Drug Agency; National Kenaf and Tobacco Board; the police; the internal security, customs and immigration departments and eight ministries.

Lam commented that the inclusion of half the cabinet members in the agency’s highest decision-making body made it appear like a second cabinet.

“On one hand, this shows the federal government is very serious about tackling land border issues,” he said. “On the other hand, this is a very bulky setting.”

He noted that the decision-making committee would be larger than most existing cabinet committees.

“Will this improve the policy-making and decision-making process or cause the reverse?”

He said a parliamentary select committee should be established to scrutinise the agency.

He also spoke of a need for the bill to cover aspects of integrity and intelligence gathering.

“Currently, the problem with our border security is a multifaceted one, stemming from the lack of coordination, the lack of an overarching policy and the lack of higher-level attention and integrity.”

He said the bill should cover four principles – integrity, coordination, efficiency, and intelligence.

“The bill mentions ways to enhance coordination and efficiency, but there is not a single word on how to ensure integrity and enhance intelligence capability.

“Integrity is an element which most concerns the people. We propose that an ombudsman mechanism be established to uphold integrity.”

Lam also questioned why the bill excluded the Malaysia-Singapore border from its definition of land borders.

Govt tables bill to create new border security agency