KOTA KINABALU: Former chief minister Yong Teck Lee described the state government’s idea to relocate Sabah’s army headquarters from Lok Kawi here to the east coast as “curious”.
He said instead, the government would fare better if it puts its focus on the federal government’s commitment to station seven new battalions of security forces in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone).
“There are valid geographical, topographical and security reasons why we have a major army base at Lok Kawi and another one at Kota Belud (Kem Paradise).
“If any of these two bases is to be removed, there must be very strong justifications.
“Such a fundamental shift in defence doctrine and thinking should be included in the proposed Defence White Paper, which Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu announced would be tabled before Parliament in October this year,” he said to the media today.
Yesterday, Chief Minister Shafie Apdal said the Lok Kawi army brigade should be moved to the east coast where it is needed more, implying that the base is in Kota Kinabalu because of political reasons and not for national security.
However, Yong, who is also the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president, said relocating the Lok Kawi army base to the east coast would leave Kota Kinabalu city, the seat of the government and the home of Sabah’s main gateway, the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, utterly defenceless.
“I would be very nervous of that fact,” he said.
Instead, Yong said since the federal government had repeatedly announced that seven army and police battalions would be stationed in Esszone since the Tanduo incursion in 2013, such plans should be put in place now.
Furthermore, he said the government needs to boost the fighter jet base in Tawau and the helicopter forward deployment base in Lahad Datu.
“In any case, what Sabah needs are more resources, manpower and physical assets.
“Simply relocating existing resources and personnel from Lok Kawi to the east coast without an increase in resources is not the sustainable answer to the existing weaknesses in our security,” he said.
Besides, he said, police have captured several Abu Sayyaf suspects all over Sabah, including Tambunan in the interior, and Telipok in the west coast.
Moving the Lok Kawi army base to the east coast will make no difference to the infiltration into Sabah by terrorists, he said.
Equally important, he said, is the setting up of intelligence gathering and to have special forces capable of conducting surgical strikes at terrorists and at cross-border criminal gangs.
“Therefore, I have to assume that we now have Paskal (naval special forces) stationed in Esszone, like the two fighter jets now stationed at Tawau, for rapid response purposes,” he said.
The use of jet fighters against the Tanduo armed intruders in 2013 was the second time that the air force jets were deployed for combat at Lahad Datu.
The first time that fighter jets, based at the Labuan air force base, were deployed for action was in September 1986 after the infamous attack at the Lahad Datu Chartered Bank.