KOTA KINABALU: Former chief minister Yong Teck Lee has questioned whether the waters off Sabah are safe after conflicting views by the chief minister and security chiefs last week.
The Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president said the conflicting views had led to confusion among the people, businesses and tour operators.
Yong said the government must be firm in determining whether Sabah’s east coast was safe from cross-border kidnappings.
He said Chief Minister Shafie Apdal had given an assurance that the east coast was safe when he urged the United States to remove Malaysia from the ‘K’ list of potential kidnappings.
“But, in the same week, Shafie announced in the state assembly that an island off Sabah near the international border with the Philippines has been identified for resettling refugees fleeing the conflicts in their countries.
“Only the Philippines fit that description. Since, as the chief minister implied, these Filipino refugees can enter Sabah in big numbers, it is inevitable that criminal elements can also cross the border into Sabah.
“If they can enter in large numbers, it means that the border is loose and criminal gangs can enter and leave,” he said.
Yong also said that while the security chiefs tried to assure people that the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) was safe, the government maintained the night curfew.
“The imposition of curfew in the Esszone is sufficient to tell the world the place is not that safe,” he said.
Yong noted that it was only last week that Jari Abdullah, who was fatally injured while trying to escape his captors, was buried at Sandakan.
Jari and two Indonesians were kidnapped in December last year by cross-border bandits at the Sulu Sea off the Kinabatangan east coast district.
He said it was a cause for concern that eastern Sabah was still under the ‘K’ list despite the foreign ministry summoning the American envoy to state Malaysia’s objection to the listing last week.
“As I have reiterated many times before, the source of our security problems lies in the southern Philippines.
“The US travel advisory for the entire Sulu Sea and islands is the highest Level 4 ‘No Go’ with the full range of threats.
“It is a consolation that the listing for the Sabah east coast is only Level 2 (with the warning to exercise increased caution),” he said.