KOTA KINABALU: The plan for a single border enforcement agency will fail, just as the existing multiple federal agencies have failed to stem the influx of illegal immigrants into Sabah and Sarawak, an MP said today.
Keningau MP Jeffrey Kitingan said the number of illegal immigrants had “probably hit the millions, no thanks to agencies such as the Immigration Department and others”.
He proposed that the home ministry revive the border scouts instead to fortify the East Malaysian borders, given its success in protecting the borders of Sabah and Sarawak during the communist insurgency and the confrontation with Indonesia.
“The home ministry’s proposed single agency will not be successful in Sabah and Sarawak without reviving and reactivating the Sabah and Sarawak Rangers and the former Border Scouts.
“A single agency will not work. Just like the current multi-agencies, it will fail to protect the borders. They don’t have the integrity, credibility and cannot be trusted to carry out their duties on their own,” said the Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku president here.
The Sabah border scouts were established in 1963 using mostly indigenous Sabahans. It was a para-military unit trained by the British to repel the incursion of the Indonesian army during the confrontation and the communist insurgency of the period.
The scouts were based in Keningau and their main task was to gather intelligence, mark enemy locations and open up helicopter landing sites deep in the Sabah border rainforest.
They proved a success, especially as they had a good knowledge of the jungle’s porous terrain. The unit was disbanded in 1986.
According to Jeffrey, the establishment of a single agency will not guarantee that corruption, inefficiency, lack of patriotism, cover-ups, political interference and “political reporting to give a feel good factor” will not happen.
He said there was much evidence, including visual reports from Indonesia, of the Malaysian authorities’ closing one eye when migrants attempted to cross the border and enter Sabah illegally.
Jeffrey also said the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), which was tasked to stop cross-border crimes, had been ineffective as incidents such as kidnapping for ransom and smuggling continued to happen.
“This is because they cannot differentiate between a non-Sabahan or non-Sarawakian illegal immigrant and locals. Only local Sabahans and Sarawakians will be able to spot the illegal immigrants. Also, locals are better suited to the local terrain and environment compared with those from Peninsular Malaysia to safeguard and protect Sabahans and Sarawakians,” said Jeffrey.
Similar calls to revive the border scouts have been made by Sarawakian leaders following Putrajaya’s announcement of a single border agency. Former deputy home minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, for instance, had said the revival of the border scouts could assist the enforcement agencies.