Build peace instead of boosting might, says Sabah academic

Security personnel take part in a parade in Kota Kinabalu on Sept 19. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: An academic here has urged the federal government to pay more attention to peace-building among the local communities instead of expanding military strength in the state.

Ayesah Uy Abubakar, who teaches international relations at Universiti Malaysia Sabah, said the government should work on alleviating the insecurity felt by the communities.

“Putting more military assets in the east coast might not be necessary. This might result in the sowing of further insecurity among the communities,” she said.

“They should work on the existing military forces and assets there but, at the same time, strengthen their relationship with the communities so the communities themselves will be the best source of information on security threats.”

She also suggested the provision of aid for those whose livelihoods have been affected by the curfew in the eastern security zone, and for those whose mobility has been limited due to fear of being seen as threats.

“There should be incentives or other means for them to avoid these negative consequences,” she said.

Ayesah Uy Abubakar.

“They can introduce other livelihoods that do not require them to be at sea. For fishermen, for instance, they can help improve their technical knowledge to be more efficient, and provide them with the necessary equipment.

“While we want security, we need to be assured that this does not hurt basic human rights.”

Ayesah urged the state and federal governments to invest in capacity-building activities for communities and civil society groups which would take a bottom-up approach to security and peace issues instead of top-down.

She gave the example of conflict resolution skills, peace-building and peace education, and conflict monitoring and assessment.

“This is the only way to build ownership by the communities in Sabah.

“There should also be confidence-building activities or mitigation measures to manage the impact of the application of traditional security measures like ESSzone. This should help government agencies and NGOs working in the area.”

Referring to the kidnappings that have taken place in the state, she said security forces could regain the people’s trust by being transparent and accountable in the way they conduct their duties.

She also urged them to be more friendly towards the communities, to encourage them to share information and ideas with the government on how to prevent criminal activities.