KOTA KINABALU: Police have sought the assistance of local governments in obtaining court orders to tear down shelters used by illegal immigrants and drug pushers in water villages across Sabah in a bid to get rid of the negative perception such settlement areas have.
Sabah police commissioner Omar Mammah said police had received numerous complaints of such squatter colonies serving as safe houses for the illegal immigrants, drug pushers and criminals.
They are also suspected to be transit areas to smuggle weapons, drugs and contraband.
“Since early this year, I have instructed all district police chiefs to take action to clean up these water villages.
“However, not all these water villages are a hotbed for crime. We have identified the ones that have problems.
“We have urged district offices to get court orders to demolish houses used by criminals and illegal immigrants.
“We are now waiting for the local governments to take the necessary action,” he said after attending a community policing programme at Kampung Kasuapan, Pulau Gaya, near here today.
Omar said that Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Jaujan Sambokong, who is also local government and housing minister, was also in favour of the police action.
He said no time-frame had been set to stomp out these activities.
“We can only propose to the government. I can only hope that we will one day be able to get rid of the negative perception these water villages have,” he said.
When asked what his action would be if politicians interfered in the police action, as had happened in the past, Omar refused to comment.
Sabah water villages and squatter colonies have long been considered by the majority of Sabahans as safehouses for criminals and drugs, and as transit points for smuggled goods, including weapons.
In Sabah’s east coast, several water villages and squatter settlements remain “no-go zones”, such as Kampung Puyut in Lahad Datu, Kampung Bangau-Bangau in Semporna and Mile 4 in Tawau. This is despite the presence of the Eastern Sabah Security Command.
Criminals, gang fights and drug use, involving illegal immigrants, continue to flourish despite various crackdown operations carried out by the authorities over the years.
It is estimated that 800,000 people inhabit these water villages and squatter areas across Sabah.
Many local businesses consider these illegals as a source of cheap labour to work odd jobs.