Shahidan: Review decision on scheduled coast guard patrols

Former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Shahidan Kassim says the country’s water security must not be compromised.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Shahidan Kassim has urged the government to review its decision to have only scheduled coast guard patrols in the South China Sea.

Speaking at the Parliament lobby, Shahidan said when he was in charge of the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), he ensured that they were present round the clock, seven days a week.

Saying Chinese ships are encroaching into Malaysian waters, Shahidan said the presence of the navy and coast guard are important to keep them out.

“When we only have scheduled patrols, this would put our water security at risk.

“So I am asking the government to relook the decision they have made with regards to having scheduled patrols,” he said.

Shahidan said the navy should be patrolling Malaysian waters 24 hours a day.

“Our MMEA assets are too small compared to China’s coast guards. As such, it is the navy’s job to ensure the safety of our waters.

“During my time, the China coast guards were already a threat.

“China won’t dare touch Indonesia, they won’t dare touch Vietnam. They threatened the Philippines but that sparked a dispute.

“But Malaysia, instead of disputing, we end up with scheduled patrols,” he said.

Asked if the recently proposed code of conduct on China would be effective enough to prevent China coast guards from encroaching into Malaysian waters, Shahidan said he did not think so.

“There is no use for a code of conduct, they have to get out of Malaysia, that’s all.

“What is the logic of China coming through the Philippines and claiming territory?” he questioned.

When asked if cost was one of the reasons why the patrols had been limited, Shahidan said the country’s safety should not be measured based on costs incurred.

“The question of cost should not arise when it comes to the country’s safety,” he said.

It has been reported that China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, through which more than US$5 trillion (RM20.3 trillion) in shipborne trade passes each year, are contested by four Asean members – Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam.

It has also been reported that Beijing has reclaimed islands in the disputed waters and built military installations on them, which it said were for defensive purposes and would not affect the freedom of navigation or overflights allowed by international law.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had announced that the country was against the presence of warships in the South China Sea.