Restructure Esscom but don’t compromise on security, says tourism body

Security forces stand guard outside the Eastern Sabah Security Command headquarters in Lahad Datu, Sabah. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: A major tourism body has welcomed news that the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) could be restructured but warns that the tourism industry still expects better protection.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Tan Kok Liang said any proposed restructuring would be welcomed, as long as there is “zero tolerable error”.

“This means no more kidnapping incidents. That is the tourism and business community’s expectation. Safety and security are vital. Any cost-cutting at the expense of security may have adverse implications.

“Can Putrajaya guarantee no more kidnappings after the restructuring? Lack of funds is a bad excuse… it should rather prioritise the spending,” he told FMT.

Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal previously pledged the state’s full support for the restructuring of Esscom but said that security efforts should not be compromised.

He said Sabah welcomed any proposal put forward, even if it involved cost-cutting, but that the effectiveness of Esscom’s role in Sabah must not be compromised.

Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador was reported by an online news portal as saying he had no plans to disband Esscom.

Instead, he said, Esscom would be restructured to improve law and order.

It was earlier reported that the federal government intends to scrap the six-year-old initiative, introduced by the previous administration in 2013 following an incursion by militants from the southern Philippines.

Tan said the security forces had done their best to ensure safety in Sabah’s east coast but that more is needed.

He noted that Sabah has 244,140 sq km of water and a 1,359km coastline, saying more assets must be mobilised, particularly in the east coast to improve tourist confidence.

“The travel advisories (by foreign governments) have already stifled tourism operations in the east coast,” he said.