Shift military assets to Sabah’s east coast to restore confidence, says DCM

Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew. (Facebook pic}

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew supports the call to relocate the army base in Lok Kawi near here to the state’s east coast, saying it will be key to thwarting security threats.

Liew said more naval assets should also be placed on the eastern side of Sabah to beef up security and subsequently prevent recurrence of cross-border crimes from a neighbouring country.

The Tawau MP said the relocation exercise would be most timely in view of the influx of tourists from China, Korea and other countries, and given increasing interest from foreign investors in doing business in Sabah.

“It is imperative that we ensure the safety of both locals and tourists visiting offshore islands and resorts.

“Equally important is the pressing need to restore public and investors’ confidence as well as step up overall safety,” she said in response to the call by Chief Minister Shafie Apdal.

Shafie yesterday suggested placing security assets in locations prone to cross-border crimes, instead of setting up base in non-strategic areas, in the wake of Tuesday’s kidnapping of 10 foreign fishermen off Lahad Datu.

He also said vessels owned by security agencies such as the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency should be placed in districts such as Tawau, Semporna and Lahad Datu.

Liew, who is also state tourism, culture and environment minister, said Sabah could not afford to jeopardise its booming tourism industry as this sector was a significant contributor to the state’s economy.

“With the reinforcement of the defence infrastructure, we hope the kidnappings in Sabah will not happen again,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Sabah-Labuan chapter expressed confidence in the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) in safeguarding the east coast despite the latest kidnapping.

Its chairman, Gordon Seet, said it was still safe for visitors to travel to Sabah as Esscom was keeping a watchful eye.

“Island resorts are safe to visit as Esscom has verified that the security in the east coast is under control,” he said.

Ten gunmen, believed to be linked to the Abu Sayyaf militant group, boarded two fishing vessels and fled with the 10 fishermen, all believed to be Bajau Laut, a community of sea gypsies who are mostly stateless, early Tuesday.

Police said the incident occurred far from the shore, near the international border, off Felda Sahabat in Lahad Datu about 2am. Those abducted, aged between 17 and 60, are not Malaysians.