Speed up restructuring of Esscom, says ex-assistant minister

Former state assistant minister Ramlee Marahaban (centre) and his group after they were stopped by Joint Task Force 2 personnel at sea in April.

KOTA KINABALU: A former state assistant minister has urged the government to expedite the restructuring of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) in the wake of the kidnapping of 10 fishermen off Sabah’s east coast.

Ramlee Marahaban, who is Semporna PPBM chairman, said cross-border crimes including kidnappings are still taking place because of the flaw in Esscom’s chain of command.

“The weakness of Esscom, which has been in operation for six years now, is due to the lack of a clear jurisdiction of the agencies involved.

“Full power should be given to the police and maritime agencies as they have the authority to arrest, investigate and prosecute. The army can support through asset deployment, including usage of radar.

“The number of assets and personnel stationed at the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) is more than sufficient but the weakeness lies in the overlapping of power and duties,” he said in a statement here today.

Ten foreign fishermen were kidnapped off Lahad Datu last Thursday. Nine have been released and are under the custody of security forces in the southern Philippines.

Ramlee said it was “embarrassing” that such incidents were still occurring, adding that lack of funds was one of the factors contributing to the weakness.

As such, he supported a recent call by Chief Minister Shafie Apdal for the restructuring of Esscom to be carried out immediately.

“Esszone is not only an active economic area and one which has a lot of residents but is also known to be a tourist magnet,” he said.

In April, Joint Task Force 2 (ATB 2) personnel intercepted Ramlee, his son and some relatives as they were making a trip to the island of Mataking. They were subsequently released and Semporna police issued a statement saying no crime had been committed.

Ramlee, a former Umno member, has a holiday resort project in Mataking.

He has filed a suit against several members of ATB 2, saying he believed they had abused their powers and had done so with the intention of tarnishing his image.