By SALLEH SAID KERUAK
Lim Kit Siang said that Parliament should close down the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom) since after spending RM300 million it is powerless to improve security in the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (ESSZone). Lim must remember that the ESSZone covers 10 districts -- Kudat, Kota Marudu, Pitas, Beluran, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna and Tawau -- and stretches for 1,733.7 km.
This makes the ESSZone ‘border’, which is almost three times the length of the 646.5 km Malaysian-Thai border, very difficult to police. Kuala Lumpur, a much smaller land area to police, has the highest statistics for criminal activities and, in 2013, the crime rate in Penang, an opposition run state, increased by 26%. So what would Lim suggest for Kuala Lumpur and Penang? That we close down the police force that cost billions to operate and yet crime in Kuala Lumpur and Penang is still high?
Hence we have to look at this problem as a national problem and not just a problem for the ESSZone. We also need to explore the reasons for the high crime rate and not resort to closing down agencies just because we may find in wanting in effectiveness. Can Lim suggest how to improve the situation instead of suggesting we just close down everything that needs improvement? We have not heard any suggestions from the opposition on what can and should be done.
There are many reasons for crime. Bad policing is one. Poverty or greed is another. But the most crucial reason of all is because criminals think they can get away with it. And as much as the opposition may disagree with me, since the removal of detention without trial laws, the police have been rendered ineffective somewhat because preventive detention is no longer possible. The police have to wait until an actual crime has been committed before they can take action.
The most powerful nation in the world, the United States, has always adopted a policy of no negotiations with terrorists, in particular in hostage situations. Once terrorist organisations know they can kidnap US citizens and hold them to ransom, and will get paid, then no US citizen anywhere in the world would be safe.
It is a tragedy that two people were recently kidnapped from a holiday resort in Sabah. We read in news publications that the kidnappers have been in contact with the family to negotiate a ransom. This ‘leak’ does not help at all. It just puts more people in danger.
While we pray for the safety of these kidnap victims, if the ransom is eventually paid and it is made known that the kidnap victims were released because of the ransom that was paid, then no one in Sabah will be safe any longer.
The message we will be sending to terrorists all over the region is that it is profitable to kidnap people in Sabah, whether foreign tourists or Sabah nationals. Hence this matter has to be very delicately handled. Wrongly handled and it may actually make the matter worse.
As a veteran and responsible politician, Lim must look at the repercussions of politicking this matter just to make the government look bad. While I am not suggesting that we ignore terrorists and not try to negotiate the release of the kidnap victims, we must also take into consideration the repercussions of what we do.